My blog

Here you can find my articles related to my research field: EU foreign policy, economic sanctions and EU-Russia relations.

The effectiveness of the economic sanctions – literature visualization on world map

One of the questions I have been dealing with since the second year of my Master’s Degree is whether the economic sanctions (imposed by the EU) can achieve foreign policy objectives or not. In other words, can these restrictive measures be considered effective or not in world politics? Of course, pundits have been debating over this issue for decades – most of them are painting a gloomy picture of the sanctions because, according to the majority of scholars, they are rarely capable of achieving breakthrough results.

Without going into the details, I highlight the three different opinions in the literature:

1. The only purpose of the sanctions is to alter the target countries’ behaviour. It does not take a rocket ​scientist to ​figure out that if we determine only one – and perhaps an extra ambitious – goal then a failure is likely to occur.

2. Sanctions do not only have one objective but they have multiple purposes, e.g. deterring countries from “future wrong doing” or boosting the popularity of certain governments.

Both of these theories argue that once a predetermined objective has been met, a sanction can be considered effective.

3. Last but not least, sanctions have to be evaluated just as other foreign policy tools, therefore, the “context” of the sanctions has to be taken into consideration as well, e.g. the cost of the sanctions.

Of course, these statements are oversimplified but the main purpose of this blogpost is not to present the conceptualization process of the notion effectiveness but rather to create a literature visualization on the world map based on the literature.

The Map

The idea of creating a map results from reading and rereading the literature. Daniel Drezner convincingly argues in his book that one of the main problems with the literature is that:

“Most of the writings focus on the more celebrated cases of sanctions. Several theories of economic coercion have been developed exclusively from [these] cases. Certainly these sanctions cases are well known, but they do not necessarily represent the universe of observations”.

In addition, accepting the fact that most of the people are “visual type learner”, this map is rather an attempt to get a first impression on the literature for those who are not really familiar with these studies and books and perhaps – this way – it is easier to draw certain conclusions.

By clicking on a country, the map serves to show the number of studies which tested the effectiveness of the economic sanctions against a particular state (more explanation under the map).

What should you know about the map?

  • There are three different colours on the map. The blue colour means that only one study tested the sanctions against the state; the green colour means that two studies tested the sanctions against the state; and the red colour means that three or more studies tested the sanctions against a particular state.
  • You can search for episodes by author, state or date (the date indicates the year when the study appeared).
  • Obviously, this map does not represent the entire universe of the literature on sanctions. What I have tried to do is to collect the most important authors on this topic so that each visitor can get a first impression on the literature.
  • If a state is not coloured, it does not mean necesseraly that sanctions have not been imposed against this particular state. Rather, it only indicates either that I have not been able to display the results of  certain authors (see the next point) or the literature lacks of empirical results.
  • Despite the fact that the research conducted by Hufbauer – Schott – Elliott – Oegg became the bedrock study of the economic sanctions, I have not been able to display their results on this map because of the huge amount of information. Their study is based on an impressive number of cases (174), therefore, I have to figure out in the future how to deal with these types of studes concerning my map.
  • The studies written by James Barber or James Lindsay are even more difficult to visualize. Their studies are amongst the most cited articles in this field, however, they do not have empirical results.
  • There are some instances where my map is actually flawed. Take the example of sanctions applied against Yugoslavia – it does not exist anymore, however, I was not able to handle this problem. Therefore, what I have done is that is I have “regroupped” the former states of Yugoslavia and represented here as if it were Yugoslavia. Similar cases (Soviet Union, Rwanda) are marked with a star.
  • It would be perhaps more interesting to have a visualization about the effectiveness, however, the lack of a clear concept makes it harder that one may expect.
  • This map will be created with other perspectives as well – for instance, sanctions imposed by the EU was not investigated for long time. However, the study of Clara Portela or Francesco Giumelli are definitely worth reading and visualizing. They tested specifically EU sanctions, therefore, in the future, a map may be appearing with their data.
  • Most importantly, this map will be countinously updated – this is just a first attempt to visualize the literature. I will work further on this map in order to involve other relevant studies’ results as well.

If you find any error, please feel free to send me an e-mail. Thank you!


Literature used for the Map

Cortright, David–Lopez, George A. (2000): The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990s. Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Cortright, David–Lopez, George, A. (2002): Smart Sanctions: Targeting Economic Statecraft, New York, Rowman & Littlefi eld.

Drezner, Daniel W. (1999): The Sanctions Paradox. Economic Statecraft and International Relations. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Doxey, Margaret (1972): International Sanctions: A Framework for Analysis with Special Reference to the UN and Southern Africa. International Organization, 26 (3): 527–550.

Galtung, Johan (1967): On the Effects of International Economic Sanctions: With Examples from the Case of Rhodesia. World Politics, 19 (3): 378–416.

Wallensteen, Peter (1968): Characteristics of Economic Sanctions. Journal of Peace Research, 5 (3): 248–267.

Blogposts from 2016

Leave a Reply