Countries and international organizations at times impose economic sanctions in an effort to compel other nations to abandon certain actions viewed to be human rights violations or threats to regional or global security and stability.
Proponents of sanctions say these measures put pressure on governments without requiring military action. Critics say sanctions – particularly unilateral sanctions – are rarely effective and may harm innocent citizens because they reduce their access to essential goods and expose them to economic hardship.
- Cargill believes unilateral sanctions are not an effective policy tool because blocked flows of goods and finances can easily be replaced by other countries that do not participate in the sanctions. Ultimately, unilateral restrictions tend to do more harm to the sanctioning nation’s economy than to the intended target.
- Multilateral sanctions have a greater chance of being effective, but they should always allow for trade in food and medicine on humanitarian grounds. Citizens should not suffer from lack of access to food when diplomacy between countries breaks down.
- Political reform and improvements in human rights practices are more often achieved through engagement in diplomacy and international commerce, rather than through punitive sanctions and embargoes that cut off interaction.
- However, if they do prove necessary, economic sanctions should be multilateral and, wherever possible, adopted by the United Nations. Sanctions should be “smart and targeted” in order to achieve their objective with as little peripheral economic damage as possible.