Sanctions are measures which the international community targets certain countries and/or entities to coerce them into changing their behaviour so that they will no longer threaten the international peace and security or abuse human rights. Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, described sanctions as 'a middle ground between words and war'.
The United Nations (UN) Security Council under Chapter VII (Article 41) of the Charter is the responsible body to adopt measures which are binding on all UN member states.
The European Union (EU), on the other hand, independently adopts sanctions also in accordance with its other objectives of its foreign and security policy. For example protection of human rights, rule of law and democratic principles.
Other organisations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may also request countries to impose restrictive measures. This could be for a variety of reasons, ie. to stop the sale of light weapons to certain regions.
Sanctions can take the form of any of a range of restrictive/coercive measures. They can include arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes, reduced diplomatic links, reduction in any military relationship, flights bands, suspension from international organisations, withdrawal of aid, trade embargoes, restriction on cultural/sporting links and other.
Information on the countries that are under export controls and sanctions.
Find out about the specific measures we have in place against terrorists.
In the UK, binding UN embargoes are implemented by prohibiting the export of goods and technology on the Military List.
The UN Charter allows for the use of collective measures, i.e. 'sanctions', where there is deemed to be a threat to international peace and security.
The European Union applies targeted restrictive measures (sanctions) against a number of third countries, entities and individuals.