Expected Council Action
The Council will consider the future of Liberia diamond sanctions by 20 December. The arms embargo, the travel ban and the mandate of the Panel of Experts (whose final report is due by 15 December) are expected to be renewed. Modifications to the Panel’s mandate in light of recent changes in the sanctions regime are possible.
Members are also expected to approve the Secretary-General’s assessment of progress with the downsizing benchmarks for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
It is unlikely that the Secretary-General will suggest further repatriations of UNMIL troops in early 2007. Additional replacement of UNMIL troops with police is possible. However, decisions on UNMIL’s troop levels and troop-sharing between UNMIL and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) seem unlikely until March 2007, when UNMIL’s current mandate expires.
A report on cross-border issues and inter-mission cooperation in West Africa is due, but Council consideration may be left for January.
Key Recent Developments
In September, the Council renewed UNMIL’s mandate until 31 March and endorsed the Secretary-General’s proposed downsizing benchmarks. These include in particular security sector reform and the reintegration of ex-combatants.
In line with this plan, UNMIL was downsized by one battalion in November. Additional repatriations may be considered as the situation permits and in accordance with the benchmarks. Serious drawdown is nonetheless only expected after an initial two-year consolidation phase.
On 20 October, the Council decided not to reinstate sanctions on timber. Members acknowledged, however, that further measures in the diamond sector are still required pending Liberia joining the Kimberley process.
One option is to renew the diamond measures if members consider that there is no sufficient progress. Another is a temporary lift of diamond sanctions (similar to the Council’s approach to timber sanctions) and a review in early 2007 if Liberia is seen to be fairly close to meeting Council expectations.
On troop levels, members are likely to prefer the option of a cautious approach to downsizing UNMIL. Other options include:
continuing to replace troop contingents with police, while simultaneously re-hatting downsized troops as UNOCI;
expressing support for joint border operations involving UNMIL, UNOCI, Sierra Leone and Guinea; and
addressing cross-border issues and inter-mission cooperation more seriously, perhaps considering the Secretary-General’s March 2005 recommendations on extended areas of responsibility and a sub-regional reserve force, inter alia.
On sanctions, the key issue is diamonds and the establishment of a transparent and verifiable certificate of origin regime that will allow Liberia to join the Kimberley process. The Panel of Experts’ views are likely to be key.
Regarding the targeted sanctions against individuals (assets freeze and travel ban), the question of whether there should be the de-listing of some individuals is an issue given the recent progress in Liberia.
UNMIL’s troop levels are a key issue, but members are aware of the risks from downsizing too quickly without due regard to security benchmarks.
How best to approach the regional dimension is another. Members are conscious of the challenges from maintaining an appropriate UNMIL strength while addressing UNOCI’s shortfalls, particularly given the current surge in UN peacekeeping. This may also require a longer-term perspective on cross-border issues and inter-mission cooperation.
Members seem in agreement that clear evidence of Liberia’s fulfilment of Council requirements will be needed for the lifting of diamond sanctions. Some, however, are concerned that political pressure could lead others to favour a premature lifting.
France has a particular interest in regional troop-sharing, but there is awareness that decisions in that regard will need to await further developments on Côte d’Ivoire’s peace process and UNMIL’s mandate renewal in March 2007.
|Recent Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Alan Doss (United Kingdom)|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007: $745.57 million
September 2003 to present, current mandate expires 31 March 2007