The impact of unilateral sanction regimes on humanitarian respons: a case study of Syria

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Economic sanctions are often used as a foreign policy instrument by larger governments. Policymakers usually design sanctions as an effective tool that puts pressure on the sanctioned countries to achieve geopolitical and strategic goals. This paper examines the impact of unilateral sanction regimes on humanitarian organizations working in Syria and their unintended humanitarian consequences. As the situation differs significantly per area, this research covered the North of Syria by identifying three central regions depending on the political regime controlling the area: (1) government and pro-government forces held areas, (2) US-backed Kurdish forces, and armed opposition groups. The research was conducted as a case study where 14 semi-structured interviews were conducted with several parties, including individuals who experience(d) the direct effect of sanctions, experts, and humanitarian workers based inside and outside Syria. The paper focuses on ten years period time starting from 2011 until now. This research highlights three main categories of sanctions’ issues facing humanitarian organizations, these issues are related to (1) financial services, (2) communications with donor agencies, and (3) humanitarian activities. Results show that humanitarian organizations working in government-held areas suffer more from the effects of sanctions compared to those in opposition and Kurdish territories. Also, large and international humanitarian organizations can often sustain more the hurdles resulting from sanctions, considering their public relations and relatively sizable budgets. The findings provide more descriptive knowledge and comparative analyses of how governments implement sanctions which can be helpful for donor agencies, humanitarian organizations, and policymakers in their decision-making processes.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen