How Do Economic Sanctions (Not) Work? This page contains information about my three-year, ESRC-funded research project on international sanctions, which was completed in 2015. The purpose of the project was to find out how sanctions operate in practice. What effect do they actually have on the countries on which they are imposed, in political terms? This question has - surprisingly, perhaps, - received far too little attention. The vast majority of the sanctions literature treats target states as coherent units, asks questions like ‘how much GDP was lost in the sanctions episode?’, and asks whether sanctions ‘worked’ to deliver their stated goals - rather than how economic pressure translated (or did not) into political concessions. Of course, much has been written on the humanitarian costs of sanctions, but assessing how many people are harmed is very different from asking how power relations, politics and the state in the targeted country are affected. Articles and books on this question can almost be counted on the fingers of a single hand. We therefore have virtually no idea of how sanctions are actually meant to work to compel political changes in target states. As authors like Jonathan Kirshner have argued, without this extremely basic piece of knowledge, we can have no idea of whether sanctions are likely to succeed or not - we are literally imposing them on a wish and a prayer. This project therefore developed a theoretical approach to analyse how sanctions operate, and deploy this in a small number of detailed case studies. The “Social Conflict Approach” focused on how sanctions affect the interests, ideologies and strategies of social forces operating on the target state. It considers how sanctions give rise to new class forces, new alliances between groups, and attempts to transform target states. A working paper containing a preliminary outline of this framework is accessible here. The main scholarly output of the project is Societies Under Siege, published in 2015 by Oxford University Press. Here the framework is applied to three case studies: South Africa, Iraq, and Myanmar. I have also written about Israel/ Palestine. The case study of Myanmar has also generated several publications that lay the groundwork for that part of the book, and for other analyses including of Sino- Myanmar relations. ‘How Do Economic Sanctions (Not) Work’ was funded by an ESRC First Grants award of £127,557 (RES-061-25- 0500) Scholarly Outputs On Sanctions Evaluating the Success of International Sanctions: A New Research Agenda (with Clara Portela), Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals 125 (2020): 39-60 Sanctioning Apartheid: Comparing the South African and Palestinian Campaigns for Boycotts, Disinvestment, and Sanctions, in David Feldman (ed.) Boycotts Past and Present: From the American Revolution to the Campaign to Boycott Israel (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 197-217 Societies Under Siege: Exploring How International Economic Sanctions (Do Not) Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) How Do International Economic Sanctions (Not) Work?, Foreign Policy Centre briefing, 9 November 2015 Evaluating the ‘Success’ of International Economic Sanctions: Multiple Goals, Interpretive Methods and Critique (with Clara Portela), Centre for the Study of Global Security and Development working paper 3, 2014 On Myanmar Explaining Myanmar’s Response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative: From Disengagement to Embrace (with Khin Ma Ma Myo), Asian Perspective 45:2 (2021): 301-324 China’s Responses to Threats to its Overseas Economic Interests: Softening Non-Interference and Cultivating Hegemony (with Yizheng Zou), Journal of Contemporary China 29:121 (2019): 92-108 [on Sino-Myanmar relations] The Development-Insecurity Nexus in China’s Near-Abroad: Rethinking Cross-border Economic Integration in an Era of State Transformation (with Shahar Hameiri and Yizheng Zou), Journal of Contemporary Asia 49:3 (2018): 473-499 [on Sino-Myanmar relations] Rethinking the Role of State-Owned Enterprises in China’s Rise (with Yizeng Zou), New Political Economy 22:6 (2017), 743-760 [on Sino-Myanmar relations] Understanding Myanmar’s Ceasefires: Geopolitics, Political Economy and Statebuilding, in Mandy Sadan (ed.) War and Peace in the Borderlands of Myanmar: The Kachin Ceasefire, 1994-2011 (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2016), 95-113. Governing Borderless Threats: Non-Traditional Security and the Politics of State Transformation, co-authored with Shahar Hameiri (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015) - section on money laundering and sanctions in Myanmar. Explaining Myanmar’s Transition: The Periphery is Central, Democratization 21:5 (2014), 780-802 The Political Economy of Myanmar’s Transition, Journal of Contemporary Asia 44:1 (2014), 144-170 Policymaker and Public Engagement Briefing on Myanmar, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), 8 June 2021: provided analysis and policy advice to senior UK officials on events in Myanmar May 2021: briefed the newly-appointed UK ambassador to Myanmar The 1 February 2021 Myanmar Coup, February to March 2021: provided advice on four occasions to senior FCDO officials on Myanmar’s military coup and international responses Myanmar: Politics and Prospects, 19 June 2019: briefing for head of DFID Mission in Myanmar Myanmar to 2021, 19 June 2019: briefing for UK Cabinet Office Supporting Democratic Participation in Burma/Myanmar: Preparing for the 2020 Election, 6-8 March 2019: participation in high-level conference for Western diplomats to plan long-term Myanmar policy Myanmar: A Political Economy Analysis, February 2018: research cited in Norwegian Institute of International Affairs report commissioned by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (online) Consultation on the Rohingya Crisis, 4 January 2018, Whitehall Burma Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Violence in Rakhine State and the UK’s Response, House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, 11 December 2017: cited nine times in inquiry report (online) The Rakhine Crisis, 9 November 2017: provided expert advice for UK Cabinet Office report and policy options presented to the prime minister The Contested Areas of Myanmar: Subnational Conflict, Aid, and Development, October 2017: research cited in Asia Foundation report (online) Written Evidence to the Inquiry into Violence in Rakhine State, Foreign Affairs Committee, House of Commons, 20 October 2017 (online) Violence in Rakhine State, House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, 10 October 2017: provided expert evidence to parliamentary inquiry (transcript; video) The Rohingya Crisis, FCO, 28 September 2017: briefing and policy recommendations to senior officials in response to the forced displacement of 500,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh International Economic Sanctions, Ministry of Defence (MoD), 26 July 2017: lecture for MoD personnel as part of the Defence Economics series Tackling Yangon’s Mobility Crisis: A Political Economy Perspective, International Growth Centre, March 2017: cited in policy briefing (online) Briefing for Global Affairs Canada Director Marc-Yves Bertin, 1 December 2016: provided briefing to senior Canadian policymaker on economic sanctions Aung San Suu Kyi, FCO, 22 November 2016: contributed to research on Myanmar’s political leader to aid UK diplomatic engagement with her Evidence to Canadian Parliament, 31 October 2016: Societies Under Siege quoted in evidence submitted to Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development inquiry into sanctions (online) China’s Engagement in Myanmar: From Malacca Dilemma to Transition Dilemma, Transnational Institute Policy Briefing, 18 July 2016: cites my research on Chinese state transformation and Sino-Myanmar relations (online) Thailand: Targeted Sanctions, FCO, 29 March 2016: advice to FCO research analyst on proposals to impose targeted sanctions on Thai elites to encourage democratisation Briefing for International Rescue Committee, London, 24 March 2016: Briefing for Myanmar project manager prior to him taking up his post Myanmar’s Transition to ‘Disciplined’ Democracy: What Hope for the New Government?, London, 29 March 2016. Invited talk for the Britain-Burma Society. Rakhine and the Rohingya, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), 23 March 2016. Participant in day-long policy planning conference on Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis. Myanmar and Bangladesh: Politics, Priorities and Regional Relations, FCO, 11-12 February 2016. Organised and delivered training for UK Diplomatic Academy with team of international experts. The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions Campaign, presentation to Independent Jewish Voices, London, 31 January 2016. Burma After the 2015 Elections: Where To From Here?, Chatham House, 4 December 2015. Roundtable discussions with officials from FCO and DFID on political situation in Myanmar and Western policy options. International Economic Sanctions, Royal College of Defence Studies, 25 November 2015. Keynote lecture on training course for 100+ senior military officers. Research Advice on Myanmar to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Research Analyst, 16 March 2015: advised on the production of a five-year assessment of Myanmar’s post-2010 reforms to inform policymaking. The Impact of Western Sanctions on Myanmar: Delaying Democratisation, 7 January 2015: evidence submitted to the UK Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Consultant, UK Department for International Development’s Legal Assistance for Economic Reform Programme, 4-23 December 2014: provided political economy analysis and policy recommendations for Myanmar. Public Debate on Israel Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions, Queen Mary, University of London, 1 December 2014: chaired and helped organise. Burma Roundtable, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), London, 25 November 2014: half-day expert input to scenario scoping and policy planning meeting on Myanmar’s 2015 elections, with staff from the Whitehall Burma Unit (FCO, DFID, MoD). Research Advice on Myanmar to FCO Research Analyst, London, 11 and 15 September 2014: guidance on peace process and religious nationalism. Briefing on Israel/Palestine and BDS for Fateh, 26 May 2014: submitted two briefing papers on the prospects of Boycotts, Disinvestment and Sanctions in Israel/Palestine to Fateh’s Commission for International Relations. Briefing on Israel/Palestine and BDS for FCO Research Analyst, London, 26 May 2014: submitted two briefing papers on the prospects of Boycotts, Disinvestment and Sanctions in Israel/Palestine. Consultation with British Ambassador to Myanmar, London, 12 May 2014: consulted by HMA Yangon on recent developments in Myanmar. Policy Development Workshop on International Economic Sanctions, FCO, 4 April 2014: Organised and led workshop on the use and evaluation of targeted sanctions, for policymakers and analysts from the FCO and HM Treasury. Regime Transitions in Southeast Asia: Lessons for Myanmar?, Oxford, 22 March: Convened and chaired roundtable for audience of policymakers, diplomats, businesspeople, scholars and students. How Do Economic Sanctions (Not) Work? Lessons from Myanmar, SOAS, London, 29 January 2014: Presented analysis to an audience including FCO research analyst. Submitted three research papers to the FCO’s Burma Policy Group. Briefing on Myanmar for Deputy Head of ASEAN Department, FCO, 13 January 2014: Briefing/ policy consultation on UK/EU approach to Myanmar to 2015. Consultation on UK/EU Burma Policy, 15 October 2013: Consulted by UK FCO on British and EU policy towards Burma in the run-up to its elections in 2015. Ceasefire: Reflections on Community, Politics and Social Change in the Kachin Region of Burma (Myanmar), 1994 to the Present, SOAS, 12 October 2013: Participant in public conference with ethnic-minority activists on Myanmar’s internal conflicts and development. Briefing for Malaysian High Commission, London, 2 August 2013: Briefing on Myanmar’s transition. Briefing for British Ambassador to Myanmar, FCO, 24 July 2013: Briefed the new British ambassador-designate prior to him taking up his posting. Sanctioning Apartheid: Comparing the South African and Palestinian BDS Campaigns, 10 July 2013, Perth, Australia: Presented and discussed research findings with Israel/Palestine BDS activists and their implications for activist strategies. Myanmar: A New Future Through Higher Education? A Myanmar-UK Policy Dialogue, London, 9 May 2013: Provided political and economic analysis and policy advice to a delegation of senior Myanmar politicians and officials on the reform of higher education as part of a British Council-led study tour and dialogue. Roundtable on the Future of Myanmar, Oxford, 9 March 2013: Co-organised and chaired this panel debate, which included representatives from business, UK and Burmese NGOs, diplomats and academics and an audience including senior FCO officials, the chair of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Group on ASEAN, senior diplomats from Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, businesspeople, academics and students. FCO Brainstorming Session on EU-ASEAN Relations, 14 August 2012: Briefed UK diplomats in London and Jakarta and participated in an internal planning session. Rethinking Economic Sanctions, British Council, Yangon, 25 July 2012: Disseminated research and facilitated discussion on international economic sanctions among Myanmar civil society activists and NGOs. EU Sanctions Against Myanmar: Proposals for Change, 7 March 2012: Briefing paper submitted to the UK Foreign Office. Burma: Long-Term Challenges and International Responses, 5-6 March 2012, Wilton Park, UK: Participation in discussions with UK Foreign Office, Department for International Development and British Council officials on future UK and EU policy towards Burma. Is BDS Working? Exploring the Impact of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 30 January 2012 SOAS, London: Participant in public panel discussion. Selected Media Appearances On sanctions against Russia Don’t Count on Sanctiont to Push Putin From Power, New Statesman, 19 April 2022; Do Sanctions Actually Work? And Will They Cause a Russian Retreat from Ukraine?, Investment Monitor, 13 April 2022; Will Sanctions Stop Russia in Ukraine?, BBC World Service, 6 March 2022; Can Western Sanctions Really Change Russia’s Behaviour?, Al Jazeera, 3 March 2022; Sanctions Won’t Save Ukraine, UnHerd, 28 February 2022; Russia’s Invasion: Will Sanctions Work?, BBC Radio 4, 24 February 2022 On Myanmar On the Myanmar elections: France 24, 6 November 2015; 938 Live, 9 November 2015; Radio France Internationale, 7 November 2015; Roundtable debate on economic sanctions, Russia Today, 8 June 2012; Myanmar’s liberalisation and international sanctions, BBC World, 30 April 2012; Cape Talk Radio, 3 May 2012; Burma: sanctions won’t help, Le Monde Diplomatique, 9 November 2010; Time To Work With the Burmese People, The Australian, 10 November 2010.
Lee Jones                                     Research