Department of Peace and Conflict Research

About SPITS

This website is a part of the project The Stockholm Process on the Implementation of Targeted Sanctions, a joint project between the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Uppsala University. The site was launched in April 2002.

Project coordinator

  • Professor Peter Wallensteen, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University

Other Project Members

  • Helena Grusell, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University.
  • Mikael Eriksson, researcher at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.
  • Joakim Kreutz, Assistant Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs

Sanctions Research at the Department

Early Sanctions Studies

Sanctions in peace research originated actually before the Department was formed. The predecessor, the Seminar on peace research that was active in the 1960s had sanctions as a particular concern. The sanctions instrument was seen as a non-violent way to bring about change. The focus was on the situations in South Africa and Rhodesia. When the leading peace researcher Johan Galtung went to Rhodesia to investigate how the UN sanctions worked his report, in World Politics in 1967, changed sanctions research (Galtung 1967). It increased skepticism about this tool. However, it also sharpened the questions: what were the conditions under which sanctions actually could be effective in bringing about desired political change? A first contribution from Uppsala addressing this question appeared in the Journal of Peace Research (Wallensteen 1968). It pointed to the importance of a viable opposition that could use the economic strains imposed by sanctions in its campaign against the government. Otherwise there was a danger that sanctions would backfire and increase support for the government (Wallensteen 1971, Nincic and Wallensteen 1983). Chapters 13-15 in Wallensteen’s Peace Research: Theory and Practice (Routledge 2011) summarizes the development of sanctions research until today.

Sanctions Reform

In the late 1990s, the traditional conduct of sanctions was challenged. Not only did the sanctions seem to be less effective, there were also reports on the humanitarian impact of sanctions on Iraq: the wrong targets were hit, notably civilians and in particular children. Thus, in rapid sequence three innovative processes were initiated. They brought together government officials; experts in banking, customs, air traffic control, arms trade, etc; representatives from non-governmental organizations; and academics: The Interlaken Process (financed by Switzerland and dealing with financial sanctions, Bierstecker et al. 2001), the Bonn-Berlin process (sponsored by Germany, dealing with arms embargoes and other measures, Brzoska et al, 2002) and the Stockholm Process on the Implementation of Targeted Sanctions (SPITS) at Uppsala University 2001-2003 (Wallensteen et al.2003). All the reports were presented in the Security Council, the Stockholm Report in February 2003. These reports resulted in reforms in the way the United Nations conducts sanctions, and they also became a model for other actors, notably the European Union (Wallensteen and Staibano 2005). 

The work on sanctions has since then continued in the Department. The acronym SPITS has been re-interpreted to mean the Special Program on International Targeted Sanctions.