Using "Every Tool Available" - A Fresh Idea to Pressure Syria's Bashar Assad

Preemptive Contract Sanctions

When an illegitimate regime contracts with foreign actors and, in essence, mortgages its country’s future, successor regimes and innocent citizens are expected to pay back that mortgage.  This all-too-common occurrence saddles citizens with unjust contracts from which they did not benefit and burdens legitimate successor governments with repayment. A declaration of contract nontransferability would put creditors and investors on notice that any future contracts to a regime would not be considered binding on successor governments.  CGD is exploring how this approach could be applied in Syria and other fragile states. 

XSubscribe to Content Alerts.

You will receive alerts via e-mail when new content is added to this page.

(if not affiliated type "individuals")
Share

Countries that throw off a repressive dictator are too often left saddled with illegitimate and odious obligations. To maintain access to international credit markets, legitimate successor governments must honor these debts and comply with other contracts negotiated by the prior regime, even if the proceeds were stolen or used to violently repress opposition.

Syria today epitomizes this mortgaging of the future. The regime of President Bashar Assad has killed thousands of people since protests began in 2011. The Arab League, United States, and European Union have condemned the violence and imposed strong sanctions against Syria’s oil sector and central bank. But these have not stopped the regime from buying weapons from Russia, or from trying to sell to China and other countries the oil the United States and European Union refuse to buy. 

A new policy tool would strengthen existing measures against the Assad regime: preemptive contract sanctions.  CGD senior fellow Kimberly Elliott explains how preemptive contract sanctions could work in Syria in the video above.

The Preventing Odious Obligations working group was co-chaired by by CGD visiting fellow John Williamson, non-resident fellow Michael Kremer, and Seema Jayachandran of Stanford University, with the support at CGD of Cindy Prieto, program coordinator. Their work is being carried forward by Kimberly Ann Elliott and Owen Barder.

Featured

USAID logo

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest bilateral development agency. CGD’s work focuses on strengthening USAID’s position as a leading development agency by providing research and analysis on the agency’s various development initiatives and operational reforms.

MCC logo
MCC

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an independent US foreign assistance agency with a focused mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. MCC’s model of assistance is predicated on key principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, transparency, and sustainable results. CGD provides regular analysis and research on the policies, operations, and effectiveness of the agency, along with ideas for innovation and adaptation.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is the US government’s development finance institution. It is a leading agency in implementing President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD’s work focuses on how OPIC can most effectively promote economic opportunity and growth.

Interagency Development Initiatives

The US government often coordinates the work of various agencies through initiatives aimed at particular development challenges. CGD’s work looks at the impact of these interagency initiatives by exploring their ability to deliver on development goals.

Recent US administrations have sought to incorporate key principles of aid effectiveness into their foreign assistance architecture while proposing reforms to boost operational capacity. CGD regularly evaluates US efforts to implement these reforms and principles, which cut across agencies, sectors, and initiatives.

State Department Logo

As the lead agency on foreign affairs, the Department of State takes the lead in a number of areas of development policy, particularly at the nexus of development and democracy. State is also tightly linked to USAID and houses PEPFAR.

US Treasury logo

US Treasury leads the Administration’s engagement in multilateral development assistance, participates in bilateral policy dialogue with developing countries, and provides technical assistance related to public financial management in many developing countries. CGD’s research focuses on how the United States can more effectively leverage its role in multilateral institutions and recommendations on how these institutions can adapt to an evolving development landscape.