Effectiveness of sanctions against Fiji rated poorly
An international expert on the effectiveness of sanctions says on a global scale Fiji's case scores very poorly.
An international expert on the effectiveness of sanctions says, on a global scale, Fiji's case scores very poorly.
Questions have been raised about the success of Australia and New Zealand's sanctions on Fiji, like the travel bans on regime members, and Gary Hufbauer's work over the last thirty years puts the success of those sanctions well below those brought by other countries on regimes the world over.
Dr Hufbauer, who is a senior fellow of the Peterson Institute of Economics, told Sally Round elections promised for this year have bumped up the score only a little, on a scale of one to sixteen.
GARY HUFBAUER: It is possible that the elections will surprise us all by being honest and straightforward and the opposition candidates won't be in jail. Then you'd have to count (the sanctions) as a big success. It certainly is a possibility, but given that Fiji's a fairly small country and the weight of the countries which have been trying to nudge it in a more democratic direction is quite large, when you combine them all, it's a little bit frustrating that it's taken so long and we're not to a successful outcome yet.
SALLY ROUND: Just tell me how your analysis works, how you come up with these scores.
GH: What we do is we ask basically two questions: One - was the result achieved? The result in this case is elections of the sort that Western countries are familiar with - it's open and you count all the votes and so on. So the first question is the result and that result hasn't been achieved yet though the current (prime minister) says he will hold elections in September of 2014. The second question we ask - it's a very judgmental question, they're both judgmental - is to what extent sanctions have a major play, a major role in causing a favourable result. So here I have to give you the events that did not happen in Fiji as illustrative of cases where we would not attribute a fair modicum (of success) to sanctions. But if there was a case where the result was totally achieved and sanctions were the sole instrument we would give it a score of 16, but Fiji is way down. We gave it a score of one or two. It wasn't seeming very successful when we scored it.
SR: What does this tell you about the sanctions themselves?
GH: Well in the Fijian case, sanctions are rather on the modest side of the overall spectrum. When I say modest, they talk about denying visas to the people who have essentially taken over the government, that kind of thing. This is well short of the kind of crushing sanctions episode that we've seen lately in Iran, obviously a much larger country and a totally different story. So these are fairly light sanctions and the expectation with light sanctions is that they're not necessarily going to succeed because the leaders can weather them through. Now if the sanctioning powers really put on a heavy threat of much more impressive sanctions and if the current government backs down on its promise for free and fair elections that would be a different story, but that's not been the story to date.
SR: Going on your analysis would you say that the sanctions have been pointless?
GH: Well, I don't know. Pointless? Sanctions do, I guess, demonstrate the concern and, one might even say, moral rectitude of nearby countries, especially Australia and New Zealand, and often times sanctions are done for just that reason - to show the populace of the country, which we call the centre country, that would be New Zealand or Australia - their government - is concerned about these outrages happening in a nearby country. So it's a demonstration of values but in terms of effectiveness and changing the way that the target country's operating its policies, they've not been very useful. You know a really effective sanction would be if Japan would say 'well, no election, no tourists'. You know that would wake people up in Fiji but that's not the kind of thing that's happened so far.
SR: So despite the fact that Commodore Bainimarama is holding elections in 2014, you would still score it at that very low level? You've got it at two here in this provisional score.
GH: Yes, two, well that's a pretty low level, isn't it? It's not really clear these are going to be free and fair elections. I would be somewhat hopeful he hasn't backed off the promise to hold elections, that would be the next step, or he hasn't made himself president for life - that's what happened in Venezuela - but you know the elections, there's a long way between here and there and even if he allows his opponents to run there is that question of whether the polling booths will be open long enough and whether the votes will be accurately counted and so forth, so I will hold on to my scepticism until we get much closer. Maybe knock it up to 4 but our cut-off point for success is 9 and this is way below.
SR: And the countries that have succeeded? The sanctions have worked? Which are the highest rating countries according to your research?
GH: This business of what we call regime change and democratisation, there's a lot of cases in that field and there are very few which we would score 16, the highest number. Back in 1993 we had a case against Guatemala, the US and the European Union against Guatemala, which had one of these coups and it was reversed with sanctions. Coming forward a little bit, the US and European Union especially had a sanction against Serbia - you remember the wars there - and finally Milosevic was driven out. He died while in the dock at The Hague but we didn't give that a 16 we gave it a 12 because there was a military component there. But the sanctions were quite effective. But there are a lot of cases in that category and that's a hard thing to do to change regimes.
SR: So would your research indicate that in order for sanctions to work, it really has to hit regimes in the pocket?
GH: Oh, pretty hard and you also have to have some other favourable factors going. You have to have some worthy opponents who are able to seize the moment, something akin to what has happened in the last few days in Ukraine. We don't have anything like that in Fiji right now and that was an amazing case, Ukraine. I mean sanctions were threatened, they didn't have to be used because there were so many Ukrainians who didn't like (former president) Viktor Yanukovych. That was an exceptional case.
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