Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who do sanctions really affect?

Diplomacy has always been the preferred method of dealing with countries that are not following the standards set by international law. The most readily used diplomatic tool is sanctions however some are beginning to question the effectiveness of sanctions. In North Korea, in order to stop the government's creation of nuclear weapons, arms sanctions were used. Also, there has been a call for the use of stricter sanctions against Sudan and Iran. In light of last month's human rights abuses in Myanmar there has been a further call for the use of sanctions. I have a few concerns about who sanctions actually affect. Usually when sanctions are placed on a country, the target is the economic well being of that state. In doing so however the innocent citizens are just as greatly affected as the government. By banning countries from trading with that state, prices of goods will be increased and the people who are supposed to be being helped are actually hurt. There is also a perception that if the situation becomes desperate enough the government will have to stop doing whatever it is it is doing. This is not necessarily true, because it is the people who will be experiencing the desperation, not the government, and in states where the people have no voice, citizens are incapable of demanding change. There has been a concerted effort by countries inflicting sanctions to ensure that to the best of their ability the people are not directly affected. For example, the trade of food and medicine are allowed. However in extremely oppressive states, these goods never get to the general population and once again the citizens are disadvantaged, with only those that are able to afford it, having access to bare necessities. It is about time that the world figures out a more effective method of getting governments to comply with international standards that has less direct effect on the people. If the actual intention is to stop the human's rights abuses, rather than get the country to comply with arbitraty standards, then sanctions cannot be the most effective method.

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