Sanctions and Embargoes

This section outlines:

What are sanctions and embargoes?

Sanctions are coercive restrictions implemented for political reasons by countries and international organisations. The aim of sanctions is to maintain international peace and security and to combat violations of international law. They are usually adopted to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, government, entities or individuals. Sanctions may take various forms such as arms or other types of embargoes (ie a legal ban or boycott on trade in certain goods) and/or economic, financial, diplomatic or cultural measures. The objective of each measure should be clearly stated.

Sanctions and embargoes are reviewed and either lifted, revoked or adapted in the light of changes in the behaviour of the target.

How are sanctions and embargoes imposed?

Sanctions and embargoes are most often imposed by the United Nations Security Council or the European Union (EU).

The UN Charter grants the Security Council powers to decide, in a manner binding on all UN country members, the sanctions that have to be taken in order to maintain or restore international peace and security. These powers are made in the form of Security Council Resolutions under Chapter VII (Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression) of the UN Charter.

The EU imposes sanctions and embargoes consistent with its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) objectives.

Once measures have been agreed, the UK follows common international procedures and introduces the necessary secondary legislation or administrative procedures necessary to comply with the sanctions that have been adopted.

If you are interested in finding out more about background information on Sanctions and Embargoes you can access a useful introduction on the Business Link website.

What sanctions and embargoes are currently in force?

Details of current sanctions and embargoes in force are available on the Current Arms Embargoes and Other Restrictions.

This includes information on export control restrictions applying to all countries and links to measures against terrorists.

Exporter Responsibilities

It is a criminal offence to export licensable goods without a licence.

Exporting companies are responsible for checking that their goods can be exported and that they are using the correct licences. You should be aware that there are frequent changes and modifications to sanctions in force which impact on changes to licences.  Exporters need to keep up to date with these changes.

Notifications of any sanctions updates and amendments to licences can be found in the Notices to Exporters.

If you want to receive notices via email, you can choose to join the ECO mailing list.


Export Control Organisation

Updated: March 2008