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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at Security Council Debate on General issues relating to sanctions: preventing their humanitarian and unintended consequences

2022-02-07 12:00

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Russian Federation as the President of the Council for this month. China will give its full support to your work as the President of the Council. I also would like to thank Norway as President of the Council for last month. Thank you for your outstanding work. China welcomes the initiative of the delegation of the Russian Federation to hold today’s meeting. I thank USG DiCarlo and USG Griffiths for their earlier briefings. We welcome the participation of the representative of Venezuela on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations. We also welcome the participation of Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Iraq.

Sanctions are a special tool available to this Council under the UN Charter. It has been China’s consistent position that while all UN member states have the obligation to implement in good faith the sanctions authorized by the Council, the Council should take a prudent and responsible approach to sanctions. For over 20 years, there has been a trend of expansion of the Council sanctions regime, whose adverse humanitarian- and livelihood-related impact cannot be brushed aside and has increasingly caused disruptions to the normalcy of economic and social activities of the general public and third countries. The two USG’s briefings also reflect this phenomenon. The Council has yet to pay due attention to this issue. Today’s meeting is long overdue, and indeed provides a rare opportunity. We need to consider in all seriousness how to take steps to improve the design and implementation of the Council sanctions to minimize their adverse impact. In this context, China wishes to offer the following proposals.

First, we must bear in mind that sanctions are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. Sanctions are meant to create enabling conditions for a political solution. They are not a substitute for diplomatic efforts. The Council should keep in check the impulse to resort too readily to sanctions or the threat of sanctions, and should give precedence to non-compulsory measures such as good offices, mediation and negotiation.

Second, it is important to design sanctions mechanisms that dovetail precisely with the core issues at hand and the desired objectives. The intensity and the scope of compulsory measures should be carefully calibrated with clearly and unequivocally articulated provisions to minimize collateral damage. Humanitarian assistance should not be construed as a violation of Security Council sanctions.

Third, member states must faithfully implement the Council sanctions. Neither should they subtract a value from the formula by cutting corners, nor should they add a value to the formula by giving themselves too much license in interpretation and over-compliance. We are particularly opposed to diplomatic pressure and coercion against any country, in the name of ensuring the compliance to the Council resolutions, to the detriment of the sovereignty and security of such other countries.

Forth. The Security Council should closely monitor and comprehensively assess the humanitarian, economic and social impact of sanctions. OCHA and UN missions deployed in the sanctioned countries should be requested to monitor any adverse impact of sanctions and report such impact to the Council in a timely manner, following which the Council can make timely arrangements and adjustments.

Fifth, transparent, standardized and actionable exemption provisions should be established. The common challenges facing us at present are as follows. One, a high threshold for humanitarian exemptions. Two, unclear criteria. And three, lengthy application process. These issues must be resolved as a matter of urgency. For certain humanitarian agencies and humanitarian supplies, a standing mechanism for humanitarian exemptions should be in order.

Sixth, special arrangements should be made when special circumstances prevail or a force majeure strikes. For example, given the gravity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this Council should actively consider suspending or easing sanctions to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the livelihoods and well-being of the communities affected by the sanctions.

Seventh, as a basic principle, Security Council sanctions should not be open-ended. A sunset clause should be introduced into all new sanctions mechanisms going forward. For existing sanctions, clear and actionable exit benchmarks should be established with the Council following up with regular reviews and adjusting or lifting sanctions as and when the set benchmarks are met.

Eighth, the experts for the Council’s sanctions committees must be selected against the highest professional standards consistently and in line with the principles of diversity and equitable geographical distribution. Emphasis should be placed on improving the representation of candidates from developing countries. These experts should perform their duties impartially and maintain confidentiality during and after their tenure. Any breach of confidentiality should be dealt with in a serious manner by the sanctions committees.

Ninth, from 2000 to 2016, this Council had an Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which did useful work to help fine tune and improve the Council sanctions. China proposes that the Security Council re-establish a working group on general issues of sanctions tasked with a comprehensive review of the adverse humanitarian and other impacts of Council sanctions and issue specific recommendations for improvement. The Council should request the Secretariat to submit comprehensive assessment reports, and the Secretariat should correspondingly improve the relevant assessment mechanisms, so that the assessments are truly comprehensive, impartial, and objective. China believes that following this meeting, the Council should have a comprehensive document in order to guide our next steps.

Mr. President,

Speaking of the adverse impact of Council sanctions, I would be remiss not to mention the Council's current sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Resolution 2397 has brought about serious humanitarian consequences since its adoption. The import of humanitarian livelihood goods such as agricultural machinery, medical equipment and water purification pipes has been severely restricted. There was a serious shortage of food and the conditions for medical care leave much to be desired. The experts of the 1718 committee have reported on these issues on many occasions. China and Russia co-sponsored a draft resolution on the DPRK in the Security Council last October, aiming to eliminate the humanitarian and livelihood impact of sanctions and create enabling conditions for resuming dialogue and consultation and supporting political solution. Regrettably, however, a scant few Council members chose to refuse to discuss this draft resolution. China once again calls on those members not to evade the issue, and to participate in the consultations on the draft resolution in a responsible and positive manner.

Mr. President,

As we discuss how to improve the Council sanctions, we should be all the more cognizant of the harm of unilateral sanctions imposed by certain countries. This is because unilateral sanctions, often in the glorified name of implementing Council sanctions, have caused great disasters and chaos, not only putting the UN on the receiving end of the blame when it shouldn't be, but also undermining the authority and effectiveness of the Council sanctions themselves. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign troops in August last year is a case in point. Some people assumed that the Council sanctions had been an impediment to humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, but after the Council adopted a resolution last December clearing the legal obstacles, there was no significant increase in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. We are informed by facts on the ground that it is the unilateral sanctions of certain countries, not the decisions of the Council, that have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Unilateral sanctions are extremely harmful, but it is a matter of concern that a few countries have not only failed to rein in their unilateral sanctions. On the contrary, they have been flinging them about left, right and center, in a frenzy so much so that they seem to be addicted to them. We have seen that unilateral sanctions imposed in the various names have thrown a spanner in the works of economic and social development and scientific and technological progress of the targeted countries, created an aggravated humanitarian crisis, violated the basic rights of civilians, including women children, and caused great damage to the harmony and stability of international relations. They have even affected the payment of UN assessed contributions and the participation of targeted countries in the work of the UN. They also have greatly interfered with international economic, technological and trade exchanges and cooperation. There is no denying that unilateral sanctions run counter to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, have no basis in international law, and are a concrete manifestation of hegemonism and power politics. We hereby solemnly urge the countries concerned to immediately cease and desist from unilateral sanctions, and to stem the severe consequences of unilateral sanctions. We call on the international community to join hands to come together to resist such unlawful acts.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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