Quick facts

Unintended consequences

UN sanctions can have a broad range of both negative and positive unintended consequences, depending on the type of measure(s) imposed and the particular context. There is evidence of some unintended consequences of the use of sanctions by the UN in 93 percent of the episodes in the post-Cold War period. These are most commonly:


Increased corruption & criminality:

58% of sanctions episodes


Humanitarian consequences:

44% of sanctions episodes


Decline in the credibility and/or legitimacy of UN Security Council:

37% of sanctions episodes


Strengthening of authoritarian rule:

36% of sanctions episodes


Resource diversion:

34% of sanctions episodes


Notably, we found no evidence of UN sanctions enhancing the stature of targeted individuals.