Many students of international sanctions recognize some sort of progress of sanctions as coercive tools. In this essay I attempt to look beyond the issue of economic effectiveness, and into the origins of sanctions; the sources of power that decide under which circumstances UN sanctions should be imposed and that decide which should be the objectives of UN sanctions policy. This leads us to ask another set of questions: How can UN sanctions create international security? Which threats to security should be sanctioned? Who are the usual suspects? And who is deemed fit to play the role of sheriff? In this essay I look at the history of UN sanctions policy in order to answer two questions. (1) How have sanctions changed? And (2) Why did sanctions change?
Earlier this year, when I was in Liberia collecting data for a research project, a national radio station announced that Liberia had made some big steps towards becoming a less corrupt country. According to the Transparency International Transparency Perceptions Index (CPI) of 2012, Liberia had climbed from 22 to 41 points over the past seven years, which measures the perceptions of corruption in public sectors of 174 countries. With this score, Liberia outperformed countries such as Greece, Panama, and China. They were almost on equal footing with Italy, which scored 42 points. In Africa, Liberia now ranks 11th on the list of least corrupt countries, beating substantially more developed countries on the list such as Tanzania and Morocco. For those people that have never been to Liberia, these results might simply be surprising. Perhaps Liberia is one of those exceptional countries that do well out of war and that adopt sensible policies in order to further economic and social development. To me, it rather led me to question the index itself.