Last year economic sanctions were used on an unprecedented scale to defend the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine. The idea that these tools could be consolidated into a more enduring multilateral instrument to uphold fundamental international norms, is already being mooted.
From becoming the last century’s original tool of last resort sanctions have become, by its most prolific user’s own admission, the tool of first resort this century. In West Africa, many of Niger’s neighbours have since responded in similarly comprehensive terms to its coup. Across the G7 and beyond officials are reflecting on their experience of mounting the largest economic response to a security crisis in institutional memory; recent historical research has revealed a distant precedent that is poorly understood among policy makers.
So what lessons could they draw from their recent action, and what instruction does history provide? Six lessons can be drawn to inform future policy and practice, and a series of reforms could be adopted by a range of sanctions actors. Countries could go further in creating a focused but broad-based mechanism as a backstop to the traditional international peace and security architecture, including the G7’s role in the international financial system to ensure that, in its own words, future belligerents cannot remain a member in good standing of the global economic and political system as long as they flagrantly violate international norms at the cost of others.