UN Arms Embargoes: An overview of the last ten years

Publication date

12 Mar 2006

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Despite the fact that every one of the 13 United Nations arms embargoes imposed in the last decade has been systematically violated, only a handful of the many arms embargo breakers named in UN sanctions reports has been successfully prosecuted. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 1990 and 2001 there were 57 separate major armed conflicts raging around the globe, yet only eight of them were subject to UN arms embargoes. Such embargoes are usually late and blunt instruments, and the UN Sanctions Committees, which oversee the embargoes, have to rely largely on Member States to monitor and implement them. Therefore, arms embargoes cannot be deployed effectively as an instrument by the UN to prevent illicit arms trafficking, without better national controls on international arms transfers. These controls are woefully inadequate. In addition, the Sanctions Committees of the Security Council have to rely on UN investigative teams and UN peacekeeping missions to investigate violations of embargoes and report compliance. However, these bodies usually have inadequate resources and time to do that work thoroughly.