June 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 May 2006
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Expected Council Action
The report from the Liberia Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts is due by 7 June.  Sanctions on timber and diamonds expire on 20 June. The arms embargo and travel ban expire on 20 December. The Council has also imposed, on an indefinite basis, an asset freeze on a list of individuals with ties to former Liberian president Charles Taylor. The Council is expected to continue the sanctions on diamonds, but could lift or suspend the timber sanctions.

The mandate of the Panel of Experts expires 21 June. The Council is expected to renew the Panel’s mandate for another six months. The Council will also receive a quarterly report from the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) containing recommendations for a drawdown plan for the mission. Special Representative of the Secretary-General Alan Doss will probably brief the Council. There may be some discussion regarding UNMIL’s future size and composition, but no decision on this matter is expected in June.

The most likely option is that the Council will renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts and the diamond sanctions, but suspend the timber sanctions. The Council may consider a suspension rather than a permanent lifting of timber sanctions, thereby retaining leverage to ensure continued effort by the Liberian government towards establishing a transparent and accountable timber sector. The option of lifting the diamond sanctions seems less likely.

A further option is for the Council to express satisfaction with the current Liberian government’s effort at meeting the conditions for lifting the sanctions. In addition, the Council may want to update the travel ban and asset freeze list in view of recent political progress, and a few of the individuals from the lists might be delisted by the Council for having severed their ties to former president Charles Taylor and for having improved their cooperation with the new government. However, none of the most significant individuals on the list are expected to be delisted.

Further options include:

  • renewing both timber and diamond sanctions, but expressing readiness to review the sanctions regime as quickly as possible, and possibly renewing the sanctions for a period of three months rather than six;
  • changing the composition of the Panel of Experts in response to changes in the sanctions regime;
  • resuming the debate on the size and composition of the UNMIL force; and
  • granting a waiver for the weapons embargo for the Liberian government.

Recent Developments
Overall, there has been more progress towards meeting the conditions for lifting the timber sanctions than there has been for lifting the diamond sanctions. An important condition for lifting the diamond sanctions as specified in resolution 1521 is for Liberia “to establish an effective Certificate of Origin regime for trade in Liberian rough diamonds that is transparent and internationally verifiable with a view to joining the Kimberley Process”. The Panel of Experts reported in its previous report of December 2005 that Liberia still had “some way to go” before it could participate in the Kimberley Process, and that much will therefore depend on the progress that the Panel of Experts will be able to report on in this area. Additionally, a Kimberly Process expert visited Liberia at the end of May and is expected to report by early June.

Liberia’s new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, addressed the Council in an open debate 17 March expressing her commitment to fulfil the conditions for the lifting of timber and diamond sanctions. During the debate, the Danish Ambassador and Chairman of the Sanctions Committee, Ellen Margrethe Løj, welcomed the Liberian president’s resolve and stated, “If the current reform momentum is kept up, that goal [lifting the sanctions] should be within short reach”.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is how to further encourage the Liberian government and key players in the Liberian peace process, while avoiding a premature lifting of sanctions that might be exploited by spoilers of the peace process. Given that the previous sanctions report in December 2005 stated that the Transitional Government’s lack of financial control would make it likely that “most Government revenues would fail to enter the budget process for the benefit of the people” if the sanctions were lifted, progress in the area of financial accountability and transparency will be an important determinant in finding an adequate solution to this dilemma. 

A further issue is related to the travel ban and asset freeze imposed on the list of individuals who constitute a threat to the peace process in Liberia. The issue here will be how to signal the Council’s satisfaction with the peace process by delisting certain individuals, while keeping the major spoilers of the peace process on the list.

A request for a waiver from the arms embargo is possible. Resolution 1521 provides for an exemption from the embargo for arms and related material “intended solely for support of or use in an international training and reform programme for the Liberian armed forces and police.”  An issue for the Council will be to decide if such a request is made whether it falls under the exemptions already provided for by this resolution, or if they wish to make an additional exemption.

Council Dynamics
There is widespread consensus in the Council that the sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible.  But conditions set out by the Council must be met and some division over the pace can be expected, with some Council members being more cautions than others.  

The Secretary-General’s recommendations for a drawdown plan for UNMIL are expected by mid-June. The Secretariat will be briefing the Council, but no new action on the matter is likely in June.

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UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1667 (31 March 2006) renewed UNMIL’s mandate for a period of six months.
  • S/RES/1647 (20 December 2005) renewed the arms embargo and travel ban for a period of 12 months and renewed the diamond and timber sanctions for a period of six months.
 Latest Secretary-General’s Report
 Other Relevant Documents
  • S/PV.5389 (17 March 2006) was a Council open debate with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf addressing Council members.

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General
 Alan Doss (United Kingdom)
 Chairman of the 1521 Sanctions Committee concerning Liberia
 Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

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