By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
United Nations, Jan 26 2017 (IPS)
Among his final actions, President Obama lifted U.S. sanctions against Sudan, a move welcomed by some.
On January 13, the Obama administration announced its change to the 20-year old policy, stating that it is “easing” comprehensive unilateral sanctions on Sudan.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures Idriss Jazairy applauded the move, stating: “By lifting sanctions on Sudan, after adopting similar decisions on Cuba and Iran, President Obama will be remembered as a leader who listened to the international community and stakeholders, in particular the poor and the wretched who were the unintended main victims of such measures.”
The U.S. Treasury Department said the action was a result of “sustained progress” by the Government of Sudan including a reduction in offensive military activity, a pledge to maintain the cessation of hostilities and steps toward improving humanitarian access throughout the country. They also added that the change in regulations aim to further incentivize the Sudanese government to continue to improve its conduct.
The amendment now allows U.S. individuals to process transactions to Sudan and engage in trade of goods and oil.
The move received criticism, including from Human Rights Watch which expressed concern over the government’s continued role in Sudan’s conflict. However, Jazairy reported that such coercive measures have significantly impacted human rights on the ground including the rights to health, food and education.
In a report to the Human Rights Council, Jazairy found a lack of vaccines, preventative and treatment drugs for infectious diseases, and medical equipment including computer programmes used for medical diagnostics, obstructing effective emergency and epidemic response in the country.
Though sanctions targeting Sudan have exemptions for the health sector, they are ineffective when financial transactions are also prohibited, he noted.
U.S. sanctions also affected education by limiting technology and scholarship opportunities which would allow citizens to improve and update resources for teaching and learning.
Sanctions have also had a role in compounded Sudan’s external debt, affecting the ability and realization of development projects and thus resulting in increased costs of living and higher rates of poverty among civilians. In 2009, poverty rate increased to 46 percent of the population, largely due to the embargo on the country.
Meanwhile, the measures have not had a significant impact on officials or any elite group, Jazairy said.
Jazairy, who is also the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue, noted that U.S. decision to revoke sanctions is in line with recommendations made in the report, including lifting restrictions on commercial and financial transactions.
He also advocated for a reduction of coercive measures in accordance with the fulfillment of objectives by the Sudanese government, and applauded President Obama’s acknowledgement of “positive actions” by the Government of Sudan.
“I urge the Sudanese authorities to intensify their efforts to enhance peace and stabilization efforts and uphold human rights,” Jazairy said.