Strengthening embargoes and enhancing human security: Biting the bullet - Briefing 17

Arms embargoes are one of the principal tools of states in seeking to prevent, limit and bring an end to armed conflict and human rights abuses. This briefing from the Biting the Bullet series shows that despite the frequency with which arms embargoes have been imposed, there are significant problems with their implementation.

Pressure is therefore growing for the international governmental community to act in order to ensure that the political commitment embodied by the imposition of arms embargoes is matched by the commitment to ensure their rigorous enforcement and to achieve enhanced human security on the ground.

The imposition of arms embargoes is fundamentally linked to efforts to enhance human security and,if implemented in the spirit and to the letter by all states, they could make a significant difference to the lives of millions of people who are suffering. The challenge is to develop an international regime which is politically, institutionally, and practically equipped for effective implementation of international arms embargoes and which will progressively establish a culture of enforcement.

The various UN Expert Panel investigations into violations of UN arms embargoes have shown that there are many reasons why UN and other embargoes are failing to relieve the suffering, or to enhance the security, of civilian populations in war-torn regions.

The first three case studies in this briefing aim to illustrate these points. Case studies four to eight show that the challenges to the implementation of arms embargoes also lie in the range of political and strategic options chosen by the governments of countries lying thousands of miles away from the conflict and devastation.