Hitting the Political Heart of Decision-Making Power: Targeted Sanctions, Multilateral Peace Missions and the Key Role of UN Panels of Experts in Africa

Since the end of the Cold War the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has used targeted sanctions more frequently than any other policy instrument at its disposal to address threats to international peace and security. It has done so largely alongside multilateral peace missions in Africa. A central link between sanctions regimes and multilateral peace missions are Panels of Experts, the small, nimble investigative teams appointed by the UN Secretary General with independent mandates to investigate and report on sanctions-related issues and provide attendant recommendations to the UNSC. However, the role and structure of Panels are often misunderstood by nations and individuals under sanction, member state governments and even many actors in the United Nations system, including peace missions. The African Union (AU) is largely absent from the conversation regarding the joint use of, and relationships among, these critical tools.

To address this gap, this brief summarizes the origins, structure and relative strengths and limitations of the Panel mechanism in the context of targeted sanctions regimes and the overlaps with peace missions in Africa. This is done with an eye toward particular areas of overlap between Panels and the AU, and with recognition that sanctions, peace missions, and even Panels—although the latter are ostensibly independent—are embedded in a political context and steered by the interests of the members of the UNSC.

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