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Sanctions and Maternal/Child Health

This pioneering project seeks to disentangle the relationships between sanctions and violent conflict and their impact on maternal and child health. The quantitative results from this research will be used to produce a strategic framework for the protection of humanitarian health outcomes when nonviolent measures such as sanctions are implemented.


Project Overview

Nations and international organizations have increasingly turned to sanctions as a coercive policy tool against other countries to influence their behavior without relying on the use of force. While there is extensive literature regarding the dynamic nature and relative effectiveness of sanctions regimes, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the impact of sanctions on people in sanctioned countries, particularly on the most vulnerable populations. CIGH is supporting a partnership between Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Ruth M. Gibson, Dr. Paul H. Wise, and the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measu­res on the Enjoyment of Human Rights related to this great challenge.

The partnership will provide quantitative evidence regarding the impact of sanctions on the health of vulnerable populations and to develop an analytic framework for assessing the potential and actual humanitarian effects of sanctions in different international settings. Additionally, the proposed framework seeks to sensitize the global community to the importance of considering the impacts of sanctions on local populations.


Providing a Systematic Approach to Understanding the Impact of Sanctions

United Nations Special Rapporteur (UN SR) Alena Douhan, a partner in this project, writes, “There is a shared belief among experts and practitioners that since the first attempts of the late 1990s and early 2000s, there has been no systematic work towards the development of monitoring and impact assessment models, despite the proliferation of unilateral sanctions and the growing data around key humanitarian impact clusters, including health, food and nutrition, water and sanitation, as well as education.” Numerous scholars as well as the United Nations have stressed the critical importance of monitoring the impacts of sanctions on humanitarian outcomes.

UN lawyer Jeremy Farrell’s stated, “Humanitarian impact assessments should be conducted for all sanctions regimes. These assessments should occur in advance of the application of sanctions and at regular intervals once sanctions are applied. The [UN Security] Council should ensure that its members have such assessments before them whenever they are reviewing a sanctions regime.”

This partnership will address this fundamental challenge by combining insights from affected communities and key international stakeholders with innovative analytic strategies to inform both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the impacts of past sanctions regimes and the development of analytic tools capable of predicting and measuring critical humanitarian impacts as countries are planning sanctions and after sanctions have been imposed. Based on a number of data sources on sanctions and health metrics, the team will work with stakeholders to develop a framework to assess and monitor the impacts of sanctions. The framework produced by this research could promote the planning of more effective international policies that address global issues while minimizing collateral damage to human rights and global health.

About the Team

Ruth M. Gibson, PhD, is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Innovation in Global Health at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on geopolitical coercion and global maternal and child health. Dr. Gibson is cross-appointed as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. Dr. Gibson’s work is funded by the Banting Vanier Secretariat through the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and through grant funding from the Center for Innovation in Global Health and the Maternal and Child Health Research Institute at Stanford University.

Paul H. Wise, MD, is the Richard E. Behrman Professor of Child Health and Society and Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Wise is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. He is also Co-Director of the March of Dimes Center for Prematurity Research at Stanford University. Dr. Wise received his MD degree from Cornell University and a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. He did his pediatric training at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Wise has led numerous highlevel, cross-disciplinary research initiatives focused on health inequalities, child health policy, and global child health in complex political environments. He leads a multidisciplinary initiative, Children in Crisis, which is directed at integrating expertise in computer science, artificial intelligence, political science, security, and health services in areas of civil conflict and unstable governance.

Michele Barry, MD, is the Senior Assistant Dean of Global Health and Drs. Ben & A. Jess Shenson Professor at the Stanford School of Medicine and Director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health. She is chair emeritus of the board of directors for the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, founder of the Stanford/Yale Global Health Scholars Program, which has sent more than 1,000 physicians overseas to underserved areas, past president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, and an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences. A passionate clinician and scholar focused on health equity, she has sent hundreds of students around the world to create innovative global health programs. She is a global leader in developing female leadership in medicine and global health and has led efforts to raise awareness and respond to the extreme risks to human health posed by climate change.