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Panel Report Released on North Korea Sanctions

Recently, the Panel of Experts established pursuant to U.N. Security Council resolution 1874 (2009) released a final report of its findings and recommendations on implementation of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009). These resolutions concerned sanctions that the Security Council has imposed on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) in order to bring about North Korea's compliance with restrictions on its nuclear program.

These sanctions include a variety of measures, including limitations of imports and exports of most types of military equipment and luxury goods, interdiction of cargo transport, restraints on certain financial transactions, and a ban on financial assistance, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes addressing either the needs of the population or promotion of denuclearization.

Unfortunately, the Panel report struggles with a paucity of information. The Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 received no official allegations. As a result, the Panel often relies on indirect information, such as government assessments, research papers, media reports, and other anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, 112 Member States have either been late or have not reported on their national implementation of the resolutions. Where the Panel report does mention sources, it often has little more than a vague reference. Certainly, it does not provide easy access to or copies of the information on which it allegedly draws. This is perhaps more problematic than the lack of information in the first place.

Without doubt, the Panel report could have had more transparency. While national interests and international security will always prevent disclosure of some materials, the Panel could have bolstered its report by appending the text of corroborating and cited records insofar as possible. For instance, where a nation has interdicted a shipment of materials under sanction, there is no reason the Panel report could not i

nclude an official acknowledgement or record issued by that nation. Greater transparency not only would help corroborate the report, it also would legitimize its findings by showing careful research and verified information. Presenting copies of relied upon information for allows readers to evaluate such information in drawing their own conclusions. Furthermore, the more documentation of compliance with the regulations there is, the more it demonstrates an international spirit of cooperation and encourages Member States to participate.

Unfortunately, the lack of reporting by many nations is part of the problem. Inconsistent adherence to resolutions, including implementation reports, sets bad precedent and cripples the Panel's ability to evaluate on-going implementation. Member States that are particularly interested in seeing the sanctions regime prove successful may wish to consider offering incentives to nations that give regular reports and show consistent implementation. Providing assistance for training and expertise in implementing the resolutions may also be a worthwhile consideration. If there is a giant gap in implementation, then it is impossible to evaluate the success of the resolutions.

Finally, the report did not discuss the implementation of sanctions in a comparative manner. A report on findings and recommendations should not limit itself to anecdotal trade and enforcement evidence. It should consider effectiveness in a historical and comparative manner. It could have discussed the history of other sanctions in other contexts or the possibility of other, better systems.

The Panel report's final and twenty-third recommendation puts it well:

“The outreach activities of the Committee and the Panel of Experts should be expanded to assure a better awareness of the Security Council measures, reporting requirements, and best practices with regard to implementation and enforcement.”

Better transparency, specific suggestions for encouraging Member State reporting, and a comparative discussion of how the sanctions regime is working would all provide such better awareness.



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