User guide

Cases & episodes

Provides an overview of all sanctions regimes imposed by the UN in the post-Cold War period. It includes not only the summary information for the 26 country cases, including their objectives and brief background, but also specific details for each episode within a case, including its purposes, effectiveness, and UN Security Council resolutions adopted during the time period.

Each sanctions regime created by the UN presents a separate case. Cases are defined mostly, but not exclusively, in terms of a country to which the restrictions apply. General information about each case is provided in the following format:

  • Status = Indicates if a case is terminated or ongoing.
  • Duration = Specifies the duration of the case.
  • Objective = Lists the general objectives of the case.
  • Sanction types = Specifies the general categories of sanctions imposed by the UN.
  • Non-UN sanctions = Indicates which other regional and / or unilateral sanctions senders also imposed sanctions on the target.
  • Other policy instruments = Lists which other policy instruments besides sanctions are also used when dealing with the target or conflict situation.
  • Background = Provides a brief overview of the context within which UN sanctions were imposed.
  • Episodes = Outlines the different phases into which each case is divided and their overall effectiveness.

Episodes are specific, distinguishable periods within a case. They are defined principally by change in the nature of the sanction regime - in terms of type of sanctions, target of sanctions, purpose of sanctions, or significant change in enforcement. Very rarely, dramatic changes on the ground may also trigger a new episode. Specific information for each episode is provided in the following format:

Summary  = Provides a brief overview of the main developments during the episode.
Purposes  = Indicates the specific purposes of UN sanctions in terms of coercion, constraint, and signaling.
Sanctions type  = Specifies the types of sanctions imposed, modified, or terminated during the course of the episode.
Designations  = Provides an overview of the number and type of UN sanctions designees.
Potential scope  = Indicates the potential scope of impact of UN sanctions on the general population.
Implementation  = Indicates the presence of scope limitations, institutional support structures, and enforcement authorities at the UN level.
Effectiveness  = Specifies if the UN sanctions applied during the episode were effective, ineffective, or mixed and provides a reason for the evaluation.
Unintended consequences  = Lists unintended consequences noted during the episode.
UN sanctions resolutions guide  = Provides an overview of all UN Security Council sanctions-related resolutions adopted during the episode, as well as a summary of their content.

Objectives refer to sanctions' formal goals articulated in UN Security Council resolutions. More than one of the following objectives may apply to a specific case or episode:

  • Counter the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction.
  • Counter acts of terrorism.
  • Contribute to the cessation of hostilities.
  • Encourage parties to conclude a peace agreement.
  • Enforce a negotiated peace agreement.
  • Support peacebuilding efforts.
  • Oppose a non-constitutional change of government.
  • Facilitate a political transition.
  • Support humanitarian efforts.
  • Enhance human rights protection.
  • Support judicial processes.

For more information about the different types of objectives, please consult the “Analogy finder” section of the user guide.

Purposes, as the general means through which sanctions are supposed to achieve policy objectives, include the following three mechanisms:

  • Coerce a change of behavior.
  • Constrain target in proscribed activity.
  • Signal norms or stigmatize targets.

All three purposes can be pursued simultaneously, or sanctions can focus only on one or two of these aspects. The specific purpose for each episode is identified through an analysis of the stated goals and demands on the target contained in UN Security Council resolutions.

Effectiveness of sanctions during each episode is evaluated separately for each of the three sanctions purposes (if applicable):

  • Coercion = sanctions aimed at coercing a change in target behavior.
  • Constraint = sanctions seeking to constrain target's access to resources.
  • Signaling = sanctions intending to signal norms or stigmatize targets.

The resulting evaluation (effective, mixed, or ineffective) depends on two separate considerations, the specific scores for which are explained in the text:

  • Policy outcome (scored from 1 to 5) refers to the degree each purpose was achieved.
  • Sanctions contribution (scored from 0 to 5) refers to the extent to which UN sanctions - rather than other policy interventions - played a role in achieving the policy outcome.

The threshold for effectiveness is high. Effective sanctions have a positive policy outcome (4 or 5) and at least a modest (3 out of 5) sanctions contribution to that outcome. Mixed cases also include a moderate outcome (3). Ineffective cases either have negative outcomes (1 or 2) or the observable sanctions contribution to the outcome is negative (0), none (1), or minor (2).

Based on the evaluations of each of the applicable purposes, the episode is rated overall effective, overall mixed, or overall ineffective. For more information, please consult the "Sanctions filter" section of the user guide.

Indicates presence of other significant efforts by the UN, individual member states, or regional organizations. These include the following non-sanctions measures:

  • Mediation, negotiations, and diplomatic efforts.
  • Legal tribunals and processes.
  • Peace operations.
  • DDR processes.
  • Threats of force.
  • Uses of force.
  • Covert measures.

For more information about the different types of policy instruments, please consult the “Sanctions filter” section of the user guide.