A Chinese envoy on Monday urged the UN Security Council to adopt a prudent and responsible approach to sanctions while raising the issues of sanctions imposed on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and unilateral sanctions.
"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," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council debate on "general issues relating to sanctions: preventing their humanitarian and unintended consequences."
"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," said the envoy.
"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," added Zhang.
According to the ambassador, 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."
On sanctions mechanisms, the envoy said that 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," he said.
Zhang stressed that 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."
"The Security Council should closely monitor and comprehensively assess the humanitarian, economic and social impact of sanctions," said the ambassador, adding that "transparent, standardized and actionable exemption provisions should be established."
Zhang pointed out that as a basic principle, Security Council sanctions "should not be open-ended," noting that "a sunset clause" should be introduced into all new sanctions mechanisms going forward.
Referring to the council's sanctions committees, the ambassador underscored that the committees "must be selected against the highest professional standards consistently and in line with the principles of diversity and equitable geographical distribution."
From 2000 to 2016, the Security Council had an Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, which "did useful work" to help fine tune and improve the council sanctions. Zhang said that 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."
Talking about the sanctions imposed on the DPRK, Zhang said that "Resolution 2397 has brought about serious humanitarian consequences since its adoption," noting that 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," he added.
The ambassador said that 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," said the envoy.
Turning to unilateral sanctions, Zhang said that "we should be all the more cognizant of the harm of unilateral sanctions imposed by certain countries," adding that "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 ambassador stressed that 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," he said.
Zhang further pointed out that unilateral sanctions have even affected the payment of UN assessed contributions and the participation of targeted countries in the work of the UN.
"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," he said.