Program History

The Sanctions and Security Research Program was founded in 1992 in response to growing interest among policymakers and scholars in sanctions, prompted in large part by the new and unprecedented cases of United Nations’ sanctions on Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Organization of American States sanctions on Haiti.

Originally called “The Sanctions Project,” the program was designed as a research collaboration between the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Fourth Freedom Forum of Goshen, Indiana. The project blended the Kroc Institute’s emphasis on peaceful settlement of disputes through international norms and institutions with the Forum’s focus on economic means of peacebuilding and the control of weapons of mass destruction through law.

Initial funding was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and sustained by various contracted projects from the United Nations community. Over its next 18 years, the program would be supported by more than $1 million in research grants and contracts. The project has focused on a number of related themes:

UN Sanctions and Assessing Sanctions Impact (1991-1997)

The Sanctions Reform Process and Smart Sanctions (1997-2002)

Sanctions on Iraq and the March to War (1997–2003)

Sanctions and Counter-terrorism (2001-2006)

Sanctions and Security (2007–2010)

UN Sanctions and Assessing Sanctions Impact (1991-1997)

A major conference at Notre Dame (spring 1993) brought together academic experts and UN and international agency officials who had been involved with sanctions in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti. The conference validated the need for new scholarly scrutiny of sanctions and led to the publication of a special issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Sanctions: Do They Work?” (November 1993), an article in the Fletcher Forum (Summer 1995) on the new sanctions systems, and the publication of the book Economic Sanctions: Panacea or Peace-building in the Post-Cold War World? (1995).

Cortright engaged in activities funded by the W. Alton Jones and Ford Foundations to assess the mix of sanctions and incentives needed to stifle nuclear and advanced missile proliferation in South Asia. He created a visiting fellows program that brought policy actors and social scientists from the region to the Kroc Institute to explore these issues. He also undertook two major surveys to assess the attitudes of elites in India and Pakistan to the acquisition of an atomic bomb. The results were published as India’s Nuclear Choices (1996) and Pakistan’s Nuclear Choices (1997).

Lopez was retained by the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (1993) to join Larry Minear of the Feinstein Center at Tufts University to assess studies within the UN and international agency community of the humanitarian impact of economic sanctions on Iraq. That report led to conversations among the UN’s Department of Humanitarian Affairs, the Sanctions Project, the Humanitarianism and War Project, and Watson Institute for International Studies, which resulted in a four-year, multi-donor funded research effort to develop new tools for accessing the humanitarian impact of coercive sanctions.

In 1998, the final report was approved by the UN Interagency Standing Committee. The report served as the working template for the assessments of sanctions impact conducted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Security Council Sanctions Committees, and related agencies. A further explication of concepts and measurements, as well as case studies, appeared as the edited volume Political Gain and Civilian Pain: Assessing the Humanitarian Impact of Economic Sanctions (2007).

Cortright and Lopez contributed to the investigations on sanctions, incentives, and economic statecraft undertaken by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. Cortright coordinated the economic incentives research group and edited a major volume titled The Price of Peace. The pair researched and wrote chapters for volumes produced by the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Center for Preventive Action of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Lopez and Cortright wrote a series of articles for magazines such as as Commonweal, America, and Sojourners and provided ethical analyses of sanctions impact, especially regarding Iraq. They appeared frequently before the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and other Church groups in the U.S. and Europe, providing their assessments of sanctions impact.

The Sanctions Reform Process and Smart Sanctions (1997-2002)

In the late 1990s, Cortright and Lopez were involved in discussions and development within the UN of smarter, more finely targeted sanctions. The team participated in diplomatic working conferences in Interlaken (on financial sanctions, ‘97-99), Bonn and Berlin (on arms embargoes and travel sanctions, ‘99-01), and Stockholm (on sharpening sanctions implementation, ’01-03). The reforms resulting from these processes, as well as a series of cases and policy analyses, were published in the edited volume Smart Sanctions (2002) and later in Putting Teeth in the Tiger (2009).

In 1998, the Canadian government and the International Peace Academy commissioned a chronology of the 12 cases of UN Security Council sanctions in the 1990s. With assistance from Fourth Freedom Forum staff and Kroc Institute graduate students, the researchers conducted nearly 100 interviews and examined hundreds of documents to produce The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990s (2000), a book-length study that included recommendations for sanctions reform.

Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axeworthy announced that the Kroc-Forum team would receive further Canadian and International Peace Academy support to examine the scope of sanctions reform and new trends in implementation. The resulting book, Sanctions and the Search for Security (2002), also examined commodity sanctions, the emerging investigative system on sanctions effectiveness developing in the NGO community and from Panels of Experts, and the post-9/11 role of sanctions in counterterrorism.

Sanctions on Iraq and the March to War (1997–2003)

Due to their research on the negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions in Iraq and their concern with the ethics of sanctions, the research team was part of a series of dialogues with UN officials and representatives of member states regarding the development of smart sanctions alternatives in Iraq.

With the onset of the inspections crisis in Iraq in autumn 1998, Cortright, Alistair Millar, Vice-President of the Forum, and Lopez became involved in Security Council and Secretariat concerns about the relationship between sanctions and inspections. Beginning with two articles published in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1998 and 1999, the team became frequent public commentators on how to best resolve the weapons impasse with Iraq after the US bombing and departure of the UN inspection team.

Working with the British mission to the United Nations and others, the team provided background research for what ultimately became SCR 1284 (December 1999), which stated that the Council would suspend economic sanctions once Iraq renewed its cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors and the newly created UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

In early 2001, the research team was integrated into discussions within various agencies of the new Bush administration to explore the prospects for smart sanctions on Iraq. This led to an intensive period of consultation with key Security Council members. Cortright, Millar, and Lopez’s essays and background papers influenced UN Security Council Resolution 1382 (November 2001) and ultimately SCR1409 (May 2002), which effectively lifted sanctions on most civilian goods going into Iraq, defined a more specified arms and military materiel embargo, and broadened the oil-for-food program.

The team’s decade-long research on the synergy between sanctions and inspections on Iraq and detailed knowledge that the sanctions had significantly eroded the weapons capability in Iraq, led them to intense involvement in the policy discussions in the year preceding the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003. After months of seeking publication in a mainstream policy journal, Lopez and Cortright’s article on why sanctions had already constrained Iraqi weapons potential appeared in Arms Control Today (September 2002).

Anticipating that war was a foregone conclusion in the minds of Washington policymakers, Cortright, Millar, and Lopez published a series of policy briefs aimed at testing Bush administration claims about the inadequacies of the UN inspections and the presence of WMDs in Iraq. The most widely circulated brief was Winning without War: Sensible Security Options in Dealing with Iraq (October 2002), an extensive analysis on why those searching for WMDs in Iraq were likely to discover only remnants in the biological and chemical area and nothing in the nuclear realm. The brief served as the intellectual platform for the Winning without War citizen anti-war coalition in the United States and its counterparts in Europe.

Lopez and Cortright’s analysis of the absence of WMDs in Iraq and discussion of the relationship between arms inspections and sanctions was published as “Containing Iraq: The Sanctions Worked” in Foreign Affairs (July/August 2004). Two years later the Notre Dame Alumni Magazine told the story of the Lopez-Cortright team in an article by Chris Hayes, “Global Warning.”

Sanctions and Counter-terrorism (2001-2006)

The researchers engaged in an intense period of research and policy work on Iraq during a time of dramatic expansion of the role of the UN in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. With the passage of SCR 1373 on September 28, 2001, the Security Council created the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) with Sir Jeremy Greenstock of Great Britain as its first chair. While not a sanctions committee, the CTC required UN members to implement targeted financial and travel sanctions against a list of individuals and organizations and urged that all states ratify existing counterterrorist treaties.

The Kroc-Forum team had close access to the CTC and was involved in discussions with various governments and agencies about how to evaluate the scope and success of the committee’s work. The Danish government commissioned from the sanctions team a detailed study of the work of the CTC, which became An Action Agenda for Enhancing the United Nations Program on Counter-Terrorism (September 2004). This investigation paralleled the creation of a new administrative unit, the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (March 2003).

This work of the research team drew the attention of a number of new, independent funding sources and UN member states. The Danish government, the United Nations Foundation, and the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies funded an exploratory student about CTC/CTED effectiveness and the ways the United Nations system might enhance the capacity of governments to capture assets and continue to impose penalties on those who vary from this system.

The first major phase of project research was published in Uniting Against Terror: Cooperative Nonmilitary Responses to the Global Terrorist Threat (2007).

To meet the expanding research needs of the international community regarding how best to organize effective counterterrorism, the Forum created the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, based in Washington, D.C. under the direction of Forum Vice President Alistair Millar. Because the Center is not restricted to analysis of either sanctions issues or the UN system, it has been able to focus its work in the needs of individual UN member states, regional organizations, and various other agencies.

Sanctions and Security (2007–2010)

The project focused on the effects of the expansion of targeted sanctions lists of designated individuals and entities, primarily under the UN Security Council al-Qaida/Taliban [1267] Committee. Much of the research in this area was sponsored by the Dutch development agency Cordaid. Conducting interviews and consultations in three continents, the research team analyzed how targeted financial and other sanctions adopted after 9/11 had adversely affected the peace and development work of civil society organizations and their leaders in Asia and Africa. The team's analysis was published in the report Friend Not Foe: Civil Society and the Struggle against Violent Extremism.

In 2009, with colleagues from the Watson Institute at Brown University, the research team continued to conduct interviews and consultations with UN actors and stakeholders involved in the reform of the 1267 regime. Working with colleagues from Cordaid, in European governments concerned about the due process issues, the team made a series of presentations in Europe, most notably an address by David Cortright before the Belgium Parliament in October and participation by Lopez and Cortright in a symposium sponsored by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in October.

With funding from Sweden, Belgium, Finland, and the Dutch development agency Cordaid, the program engaged representatives of permanent members of the UN Security Council in creating a report, Human Rights and Targeted Sanctions (October 2009), which was discussed at a diplomatic symposium sponsored by the government of Finland. On December 17, the Security Council passed resolution 1904 as an extension of SCR 1822 and a major reform of the 1267 regime. A number of the recommendations presented in the various publications from this project were reflected in the SCR 1904.

The research team also focused on analyzing how to refine multilateral targeted sanctions with how to coordinate the formulation and implementation of this sanctions tool into wider UN actions aimed at promoting peace. Research included interviews with diplomats, UN officials, and a systematic analysis of studies of the UN Sanctions Committees’ Panels of Experts, research conducted on UN peacekeeping operations, and internal reports of committees and Special Representatives of the Secretary General.

Following a major UN forum sponsored by the government of Greece in New York on April 2007, the researchers engaged in a series of meetings with governments serving and soon-to-serve on the UN Security Council regarding new studies and consultations on strengthening targeted sanctions. Meetings were held in New York in March and November 2009 and March 2010.

With funding from the Canadian government, the sanctions program facilitated a workshop in December 2008 and prepared materials to help develop a UN information management system for monitoring targeted sanctions. The workshop served as a catalyst for the Security Council Subsidiary Organs Branch and other UN Secretariat staff to develop the architecture and content of the system. This system has helped the UN gather, store, and retrieve data from expert panels working to discover sanctions violations.

George Lopez completed a multi-year project on arms embargoes, which was published as Putting Teeth in the Tiger: Improving the Effectiveness of Arms Embargoes (2009), co-edited with Michael Brozska.

Lopez, Cortright, and Millar participated in a large comparative study of multilateral targeted sanctions, coordinated by Thomas Bierstecker of the Geneva Institute of International Studies and Sue Eckert of the Watson Institute. The volume to emerge from this large project will be published in 2011.

The team also focused on summarizing and reassessing the contours and contribution of sanctions to multilateral concerns. David Cortright, George Lopez, and Linda Gerber-Stellingwerf wrote two seminal chapters about the history of Security Council sanctions for The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (2008) and The United Nations Security Council and War: Evolution of Thought and Practice since 1945 (2008), both published by Oxford University Press, and Lopez wrote entries for two new encyclopedia.

In early 2010, the project was renamed the Sanctions and Security Research Program.