As the world gets more globalized and interconnected via technology and free trade, the problems we once thought were literally a world away are now encroaching ever closer to home. Through the progression of media we get our news faster and our reactions to global events as a result are quicker than they used to be. With a more globalized community comes new responsibilities and challenges. In the past, what injustices occurred in other countries did not always concern the world, they were labeled internal matters. With the world inching together closer and closer, international bodies have been set up to deal with issues that light the way towards a more just and humane global community. The pinnacle of these organizations is of course, The United Nations. Set up as a successor to the largely ineffectual League of Nations by the victorious allies of WWII in 1945, the U.N. has been at the forefront of mediating in and if needed, exerting force to end conflicts and injustices around the globe. In this article the subject will be various examples of U.N. sanctions placed on pariah states and the outcomes of such actions.
5. South Africa
The white minority regime in South Africa was known for its violent and repressive policies against the black majority population that often shocked the world. While images of Nelson Mandela being freed from jail and reconciling the two sides to work for a united South Africa are very well known, what is not is the effort taken by the world to condemn and eventually punish the Apartheid state via sanctions. Established in 1948, the Apartheid state of South Africa initially enjoyed unheard of standards of living in the continent of Africa, for the white minority at least. Beginning in the 1960’s, the world started to pay more attention to the racist policies of the regime. The first international act of sanctions was to bar South African athletes from competing in the Olympics. As time wore on, despite resistance from right wing governments and groups in Western nations, the sanctions were increased, so that by the 1980’s the disinvestment campaigns against the country were starting to take a toll on its economy. Capital flight was starting to make imports more costly for the government and thus spiking inflation. Eventually a reformist government under F.W. De Klerk took power and negotiated with Civil Rights activist Nelson Mandela to end Apartheid and create a multi-inclusive government.
4. North Korea
North Korea seems to have made it a national sport to be a Global pariah state. Having been ruled by the same despotic family dynasty of the Kim’s for over 60 years, the people of that nation are literally trapped in one giant prison under the whims of madmen. This of course does not go all together unpunished by the global community. While the regime starves its people and uses money it does not have to beef up military capabilities for its never ending mental state of siege, the UN has passed numerous sanctions to punish North Korea. Unfortunately it does not seem to have the desired effect. Freezing overseas funds, travel bans and other piece meal efforts have not stopped North Korea from becoming a nuclear armed state, even using two detonations in 2006 and 2009 to prove that point. Nor have they stopped the increased repression of its own people.
3. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
As with most post-Soviet or post-Communist nations in the 1990’s, the former Yugoslavia faced ethnic and nationalist tensions kept under control for 50 years by authoritarian governments. When that authority collapsed, all hell broke loose…literally. In Yugoslavia it was the militarily dominant Serb ethnicity that gained the upper hand and subsequently conducted the majority….though not all of the ethnic cleansing. Given tacit approval by the Serb government in Belgrade, Serb militias ran rampant in Bosnia and Croatia. In response the UN decided to enact sanctions against Yugoslavia, which Serbia was recognized as the successor state of, much like Russia was with the dissolution of the USSR. The first sanctions in 1992 targeted the sports world of the nation. Yugoslavia’s National Soccer team was disqualified from participating in the EURO 1992 tournament, despite finishing top of their qualifying group. As the war raged on and atrocities mounted, the UN took more drastic measures to punish the Belgrade government even further. Asset freezes and visa travel bans were enacted, but so were trade sanctions, hitting the regime where it hurt, their wallets. As nations refused to trade with Yugoslavia and subsequent inflation caused the rising prices of commodities the government was forced to commit to the peace conference in Dayton, Ohio in 1995 and conclude the war.
Ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, where protesters overthrew the Shah, (an American ally put in power under some very illegal methods…namely a coup) and installed Aytollah Khomeini, the relations between Iran and the West have been tense to say the least. The seizing of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the holding of U.S. embassy staff as hostages for 444 days by radical students attached to Khomeini’s movement only served to sour relations. Thus for 35 years, the U.S. and Iran have been at loggerheads with one another, covertly and very much overtly. Sanctions imposed by the UN have been the weapon of choice to punish the theocratic regime in Tehran. In the past, sanctions have served various purposes, such as to weaken Iran in its brutal 8 year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or punish them for their role in supporting various terrorist groups, namely Hezbollah. Today though, the main argument to use tough sanctions against Iran is its Nuclear Weapons program. Iran’s official stance is that it needs Nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; such as generating electricity and for medical and agricultural purposes. Israel and America have differing views on what Iran seeks nuclear energy for. Although some of the harshest sanctions have been levied against Iran for its nuclear program, suspected as a weapon’s program with a nuclear tip, The Iranian regime has been surprisingly resilient and has been able to trudge on with its nuclear program.
Iraq is arguably the most shocking and heart breaking case of U.N. imposed sanctions gone awry. Usually, sanctions achieve their desired result with minimal casualties of the civilian population. In the case of Iraq though, a combination of Saddam Hussein’s brash policies and the U.N.’s exceedingly harsh sanctions led to the death of as many as 500,000 to 1,000,000 Iraqi children. In 1988 after a grueling 8 year war with neighboring Iran, Saddam found himself in a tight financial spot. The Sunni Gulf Arab monarchies that had freely loaned him funds to fight Shia Iran, demanded their money back promptly. Taken aback by this betrayal , Saddam began looking for ways to boost revenues to offset the economic imbalance his nation was facing. Adding insult to injury, the Gulf Arab states started pumping excessive oil into the market, thus reducing the price of the commodity to historic lows, putting Saddam in an even bigger bind. He found his revenge though as the state of Kuwait, Iraq’s tiny neighbor was accused by Saddam of slant drilling in 1990, thus stealing Iraq’s much needed oil. In August of 1990 Saddam invaded Kuwait. The U.N. immediately responded and led by the United States, gave Saddam an ultimatum to leave, When he didn’t, a coalition was formed, again led by the U.S. and routed Saddam’s military in 1991. For the people of Iraq though, the worst was yet to come. Not content with having Saddam pushed back to Iraq, the U.N. enacted some of the harshest sanctions on Iraq. So harsh that people, particularly children, started feeling the adverse effects of such punitive tactics. Chlorine, a chemical substance needed to treat water before it’s distributed to people was blocked from entering Iraq under the sanctions list, so was concrete. Without chlorine in the water, children started contracting numerous diseases and died. And without concrete, a housing shortage developed and people were forced to live in unsanitary and cramped quarters, furthering the spread of diseases that affected children worst of all. The crisis peaked with the shameful admission of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a 1996 interview stating that the deaths of so many children was worth the effort of the sanctions.