Press Release / Dec. 23, 2004

Global Witness Press Release: Liberia sanctions renewal

Liberia: While the UN Security Council correctly maintains sanctions on Liberian timber and diamonds, much work remains to ensure Liberia’s natural resources no longer fuel conflict.
23 December 2004

Global Witness (1) welcomes the UN Security Council’s renewal of sanctions on Liberia’s timber and diamond industries through Resolution 1579 (2), with timber sanctions extended for one year and diamond sanctions for six months. As detailed in Global Witness’ latest report, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, the Liberian government’s continued lack of control over its natural resources and border regions allows armed ex-combatants to profit from timber and diamond sales and engage in destabilizing cross-border trafficking of weapons and mercenaries (3).

“This is a victory for the Liberian people, who have consistently supported maintaining the timber and diamond embargoes (4),” says Mike Lundberg, Global Witness Campaigner. “Liberia has suffered through 14 years of civil war fuelled in part by Liberia’s natural resources. The region needs the Security Council, together with the donor community and Liberian government, to remain committed to maintaining sanctions until both industries have been properly reformed and their links to conflict permanently severed”.

Global Witness is disappointed that diamond sanctions have only been put in place for six months, as this may leave less time to ensure that diamond areas are brought under full government authority and that Liberia receives the technical and financial assistance it needs to implement a strong system of controls. While an ‘ad hoc’ team from the Kimberley Process will visit Liberia at the start of 2005, it is not a formal review and a second team must make a full assessment visit to ensure that the systems are working effectively, before a competent decision can be made by the Security Council to remove sanctions.

“Lifting sanctions before anything less than full control over Liberia’s timber and diamond industries is achieved would be an invitation to those wanting to destabilise the region and exploit natural resources to fuel instability and corruption”, says Lundberg. The Liberian government has not implemented many basic reforms to ensure transparency and accountability in its timber and diamond industries, and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and Liberian government do not maintain adequate control over Liberia’s territory or porous borders. “The Liberian government still has a long way to go before it can demonstrate that sanctions can be lifted without leading to further conflict".

For press inquires please contact Mike Lundberg of Global Witness at +44-(0)207-561-6372.
For questions on diamonds, contact Alex Yearsley of Global Witness at +44-(0)207-561-6388 or +44-(0)-7773-812-901.

Notes for the Editor:
(1) Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses on the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict and was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
(2) Timber sanctions were first imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1478 (2003), entering into effect on 7 July 2003. The timber sanctions were renewed through Resolution 1521 (2003) for one year. Sanctions on Liberian diamonds were first imposed by the Security Council through Resolution 1343 (2001).
(3) For more information, see Global Witness’ reports and briefing documents on Liberia available at ‘Dangerous Liaisons: The ongoing relationship between Liberia’s natural resource industries, arms trafficking and regional insecurity’, December 2004; ‘‘Resource Curse or Cure?: Reforming Liberia’s governance and logging industry’, September 2004; ‘Liberia: Back to the future-What is the future of Liberia’s forests and its effect on regional peace?’, May 2004; 'Against the People, For the Resources', September 2003; 'The Usual Suspects: Liberia's weapons and mercenaries in Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone', March 2003; 'Logging Off: how the Liberian timber industry fuels Liberia's humanitarian disaster and threatens Sierra Leone', September 2002; 'Taylor-made: the pivotal role of Liberia's forests and flag of convenience in regional conflict'. September 2001. See also UN Panel of Experts reports on Sierra Leone, S/2000/1195, and UN Panel of Experts reports on Liberia, S/2004/955, S/2004/752, S/2004/396, S/2003/973, S/2003/779, S/2003/498, S/2002/470 S/2001/1015.
(4) Open Letter from the NGOs Coalition for Liberia calling on the UN Security Council to maintain timber and diamond sanctions at its December review, 6 December 2004.