Global Policy Forum

UNSC Lifts Ban on Export of Liberian Diamonds


By Nicholas Wood

Times - India
April 28, 2007

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Friday to lift a ban on Liberian diamond exports imposed in 2001 when so-called ``blood diamonds'' were being used to fuel civil wars in west Africa. Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current council president, said the vote was ``a recognition of the progress made in Liberia'' to meet the conditions to join an international program to certify the diamonds' origin to ensure they were mined legally. ``This government has shown its determination to put in place measures to ensure that the proceeds of diamond sales go for the benefit of Liberia and its people and are not misappropriated,'' he said. It's ``a reflection of our confidence in that country, in its leadership.'' Liberia submitted its application on March 27 to join the Kimberley Process, a voluntary 71-nation group created out of the furor over diamond-funded wars in Sierra Leone and Angola.

The group, whose members agree to trade only certified diamonds, has helped conflict diamonds drop to less than 1 per cent of those sold worldwide, from about 4 per cent previously. After the vote, Liberia's UN Ambassador Nathaniel Barnes said he had just learned that the Kimberley committee was going to accept Liberia's application as a result of the council's action, ``so as of now, we are officially a part of the Kimberley Process.'' Barnes called the council's decision to lift the ban ``a vote of confidence ... (and) support of our very strong political will to do the right thing for Liberia and Liberians.''

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Africa's first elected woman leader who took office in January 2006 - inherited one of the world's poorest countries, battered by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003 that left 200,000 people dead, and displaced half the country's 3 million people. Her government has pressed for the lifting of the diamond sanctions imposed in May 2001 to stop former president Charles Taylor from using government revenues from diamonds to fuel civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Taylor, who went into exile in August 2003, faces war crimes charges stemming from his alleged backing of Sierra Leone's rebels who terrorized victims by chopping off their arms, legs, ears and lips. Barnes said he expects the lifting of diamond sanctions to have an ``incredibly positive'' impact because it will provide jobs in a country with an 85 percent unemployment rate. ``Anywhere on the globe that's unacceptable, but it's further exacerbated by the fact that a large portion of these unemployed are ex-combatants,'' he said. ``So by the removal of the sanctions on diamonds, and the appropriate monitoring mechanisms in place, we'll be able to put people to work, which is one of the biggest challenges we have right now.'' Historically, Liberia has used very old technology _ sifting surface soil and sand with pans _ to find diamonds, ``but we think with new technology there's incredible potential for Liberia,'' Barnes said. That will take foreign capital, he said, because ``we do not have the resources domestically to do it.''

The resolution adopted by the Security Council, which was sponsored by the United States, applauded the Liberian government's progress toward meeting the minimum requirements to join the Kimberley Process. The council said it would review its decision to lift diamond sanctions in 90 days after considering a report by a U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions on Liberia's compliance with the Kimberley certification process. ``This is an example of sanctions working and we're pleased that Liberia has turned this corner in its history,'' said the US Mission's deputy spokesman Ben Chang. Liberia is still subject to an arms embargo, a travel ban on certain individuals, and an asset freeze against Taylor and his top officials.

More Information on the Security Council
More Articles on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on the Dark Side of Natural Resources
More Information on Liberia


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.