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India urges more openness in UN sanctions regime

20 July 2016

India has called for reform in the ''subterranean universe'' of the UN Security Council's sanctions regimes as it criticised the lack of transparency in their functioning, saying principles of ''anonymity and unanimity'' absolve individual members of accountability.

There ''is the need for change of the processes followed in the subterranean universe of the Council's subsidiary bodies. The subterranean universe I refer to consists of 26 sanctions regimes acting on behalf of the Council,'' India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said at a Security Council session on 'working methods'.

He said the 26 sanctions regimes cumulatively take 1,000 decisions every year but rarely does the chair of any of these bodies brief member states or the media about the proceedings after their meetings.

He questioned why efforts at transparency are not extended to the ''subterranean universe, where more decisions are taken than in formal meetings or informal consultations''.

''Why is it that we are blandly informed of positive decisions of this subterranean universe and never told about negative decisions when proposals are not acceded to,'' he said on Tuesday as he lamented that in the council's sanctions regimes no explanations are given about how the members voted and what their positions are.

He further stressed that in the sanctions regimes no rationale is given for accepting requests for listing nor do the applications that are rejected surface in the public space.

''No one indicates who specifically is not supporting a request. Indeed, proposals that can't make it are buried without public acknowledgement that they were ever considered,'' he said.

''In the subterranean universe, all decisions are required to be taken by unanimity, a practice that is not in vogue in the council itself. While the trend now is to consider means to curtail the use of the veto in the council's own work and many here support such efforts, however, in the subterranean universe all council members have extended vetoes to themselves as members of sanctions committees,'' he said.

He further stressed that in the ''subterranean universe of subsidiary bodies, the adoption of principles of anonymity and unanimity has absolved individual members of accountability''.

''Taking their cue from the membership of these bodies, other member states too perhaps have not been implementing many of the decisions taken by these bodies,'' he said, adding that implementation reports from member states indicates how outdated they are and in most cases are of 2003 vintage.

Previously, India has slammed the UN sanctions committee for taking a ''selective approach'' in tackling terrorism when a technical hold was put on its application to include the name of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar on the committee's list of designated terrorists.

India had said in April that it finds it ''incomprehensible'' that while the Pakistan-based JeM was listed in the UN Security Council Committee as far back as 2001 for its known terror activities and links to al-Qaeda, the designation of the group's main leader, financier and motivator has been put on a technical hold.

Welcoming the council's adoption of a new procedure for selection of the chairs of subsidiary bodies, Akbaruddin hoped that this will be a ''harbinger of greater change'' in the overall functioning of the sanctions regime.

Akbaruddin said there is a ''sense of unease'' among UN member states who regularly articulate suggestions for enhancing transparency, effectiveness and inclusivity in the work of the Council and have expectations that these suggestions will be implemented.

''It is an unease that stems from the old saying 'Expectation is the mother of all frustration' these suggestions, supported by many, remain largely unimplemented,'' he said.

''Notwithstanding persistent efforts, progress on Working methods of the Council sadly is best measured not by what has been achieved but how much more remains to be fulfilled,'' he said.

He also pointed to the lack of institutionalised interaction and consultation between the Council and Troop and Police Contributing Countries, saying the Council itself has noted that this lack of effective dialogue had generated frustration on all sides and undermined mandate implementation.

Citing the example of recent developments concerning the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, he said there has been talk about increasing the number of troops and of possible expansion of mandate but at no stage have there been efforts at institutionalised consultations with troop contributing countries on any of these.

''Consultations amongst Council, Secretariat and Troop Contributing Countries remains an improvement which has been wished in various fora by many but remains to be implemented years after its necessity has been accepted,'' he said questioning when its time will come.

He said the issues raised by India ''exemplify the chasm'' that exists between the Council's working methods and the general membership's wishes for a comprehensive structural-functional reform.

''India is committed to the pursuit of that quest for far-reaching reform to make the Council fit for purpose for the 21st century,'' he added.

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