The past two decades have witnessed an unprecedented intensification of the use of collective non-military enforcement measures by the UN Security Council in the form of UN sanctions. The proliferation of sanctions has resulted in a sophistication of UN sanctions regimes. The quantitative increase of the imposition of sanctions became effectively intertwined with so-called individualization and formalization processes. The individualization of UN sanctions refers to the move from comprehensive to targeted sanctions. The process of formalization has to some extent been the consequence of this individualization. It involves the increasing resort to quasi-legal and legal standards and practices in all phases and stages of the regimes. It thus includes questions of ex post facto accountability but is wider in scope. The process of formalization has substantive, procedural as well as institutional dimensions. As such it may even have repercussions beyond sanctions regimes per se. Indeed, as sanctions are generally adopted alongside other measures, questions of interplay with other institutions and measures arise. These may concern the interrelationship with equivalent regional and unilateral sanctions and/or the connection with parallel UN coercive measures, such as the use of force or ICC referrals, and other forms of (international) criminal adjudication.

In this light, the mandate of the study group on UN sanctions and international law is to examine and evaluate the individualization and formalization of UN sanctions and to reflect on questions of institutional interplay.

Three Aims

The three themes (individualization, formalization and interplay) are translated into the following three aims for this ILA Study Group:

  • To evaluate the individualization and formalization of UN sanctions.

What are the pros, cons and interconnections of developments towards individualized and rules-based conceptions of UN sanctions? How targeted must targeting be and what are the risks of over-targeting and over-compliance?

  •  To examine how and in which circumstances UN sanctions regimes can be further (or less) individualized and formalized both in terms of their function as well as regarding procedural aspects.

In which areas of international law can UN sanctions play a role? Do different types of UN sanctions regimes correspond to different protected values and pursued  interests? How are procedures and accountability models best organized?

  • To reflect on coordination with other institutions.

What are the best forms of interplay and interaction with other institutions such as the International Criminal Court, ICTY, ICTR and national courts pursuing criminal accountability, and with other regional or sub-regional organizations that apply sanctions, such as the EU and AU?

The Study Group aims to present its first report on individualization and formalization on the 2016 Johannesburg ILA Conference and a second report on interplay in 2018. These reports will offer in-depth and analytical reflections on the three themes. They will also set out how the Study Group’s findings can be used for the formation of a committee with the aim to adopt concrete ILA recommendations on the use of UN sanctions, possibly in 2020.



Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.