posted on Fri 18 Dec 2015 5:19 PM
Resolution on 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee

On Monday (21 December), the Council is expected to adopt a resolution making adjustments to the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions regime. This follows a review of the implementation of the sanctions regime, called for in resolution 2160 of June 2014, the last resolution revising the regime. After the adoption, the Council will hold its quarterly debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan [UNAMA], previewed in our December 2015 Forecast.

The draft resolution was circulated on Tuesday (15 December) and one round of negotiations was held the following day, followed by bilateral exchanges. The draft passed silence this morning (18 December), and is now in blue.

No fundamental changes have been made to the sanctions regime, which maintains an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on designated individuals and entities. However, new elements have been added to the resolution in an effort to reflect more accurately the conflict dynamics in Afghanistan, to clarify how the regime functions, and to strengthen its work. The new text urges member states to step up efforts to combat terrorist financing. It underscores the Council’s concern with the impact of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small arms in the country, and seeks to clarify exemptions to the assets freeze and travel ban for parties designated under the sanctions regime.

The language on terrorist financing urges member states to implement the international standards contained in the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Recommendations to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and proliferation. (FATF’s Recommendations are recognised as the global standard for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.) Member states are further called on to take into account these standards and the FATF’s Recommendations with regard to the activities of non-profit organisations, informal remittance systems and cross-border currency flows. This language is a reflection of the Council’s growing concern with terrorist financing.

Yesterday (17 December), during a ministerial-level briefing, the Council adopted resolution 2253 on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [Da’esh] Al Qaida sanctions regime, which also incorporated new language on the FATF’s Recommendations. Je-Yoon Shin, President of the FATF, addressed the Council on the body’s work in promoting the effective implementation of measures for combating terrorist financing.

In resolution 2160, the Council decided that states should take appropriate measures to prevent those associated with the Taliban from having access to IEDs and other unconventional weapons. The current draft builds upon this language. It notes the need to enhance coordination and information-sharing between member states and with the private sector to restrict the Taliban’s access to IED components. The resolution expresses serious concern with the flow of weapons such as IED components and small arms and light weapons to the Taliban, and calls for better control over the transfer of small arms and light weapons. As noted in Monitoring Team’s August 2015 report (S/2015/648), IEDs are used “widely and indiscriminately” by the Taliban and the increase in their use is “one of the main factors for the continuing rise in civilian casualties.” The devastating impact of IEDs on civilian populations was echoed in the Secretary-General’s 10 December UNAMA report (S/2015/942).

The most significant changes in this draft in comparison with resolution 2160 relates to new language clarifying the exemption process for the assets freeze and travel ban. It notes that the focal point in the Security Council Affairs Division may receive exemption requests to the assets freeze and forward them to the sanctions committee for consideration, if these requests have been submitted first to the state of residence and any other relevant states. The draft further recalls that the assets freeze does not apply to funds that the relevant state considers necessary for basic expenses, such as food, medicine, rent, or reasonable professional fees (e.g. legal expenses).

Regarding requests for exemptions to the travel ban, the draft states that the focal point will receive these requests, and transmit them to the sanctions committee for its consideration in consultation with states of transit and destination, which must provide consent to any exemptions to the travel ban. It also notes that the assets freeze does not apply to expenses to finance travel following an approved travel ban exemption.

There is new language in the draft specifically referring to the Haqqani Network as a group associated with the Taliban. (The Haqqani Network is a Pakistan-based branch of the Taliban.) China wanted direct reference to the Haqqani Network deleted from the draft, and this was apparently a difficult aspect of the negotiations. As a compromise, it seems that while the Haqqani Network is still mentioned in the final text, some references were taken out.

In addition, to reflect the evolving conflict dynamics in Afghanistan, language was incorporated into the draft expressing concern at the increasing presence and potential growth of ISIL affiliates in Afghanistan.

In terms of reporting requirements, the draft requests oral reports to the Council from the Committee chair once a year on the work of the Committee and its Monitoring Team. It also requests that the chair convene annual briefings for all interested member states. These requests are new for this sanctions regime, and were incorporated at the request of the current chair, New Zealand.

Also at the request of New Zealand, language has been included in the draft that requests the committee and/or chair to consider visiting, as appropriate, relevant countries in an effort to enhance implementation measures under the sanctions regime.