What's In Blue

Posted Mon 9 Dec 2013

Liberia Sanctions

The Security Council will adopt a resolution Tuesday morning (10 December) that renews the Liberia sanctions regime for a further 12 months while significantly rolling back the sanctions. The draft resolution was put in blue Friday evening (6 December).
Some members of the Council, notably France, the UK and the US, the penholder on Liberia, have been keen to begin scaling back the sanctions arguing that they have been in place for 10 years and are poorly implemented. They also contend that the timing is appropriate for winding down sanctions, which should coincide with the current drawdown of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

However, during negotiations, other members, in particular, Argentina, Australia, Guatemala and Luxembourg, expressed their concern about scaling back too quickly, pointing out that the final report (S/2013/683) of the Panel of Experts (PoE) highlights the continued activities of Liberian mercenaries, along with the government’s shortcomings in developing better arms controls and its problems in managing natural resources.

The draft resolution modifies the notification requirements to the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee for arms transfers and military assistance to Liberia. The responsibility to notify the Committee now falls primarily on the government of Liberia, and is no longer required of the exporting state. Additionally, there is no longer a requirement to report the transfer of non-lethal military aid to the Committee. Some Council members’ concerns about this handover of responsibility to Liberia were partially allayed by a new operative paragraph that urges Liberia to adopt and implement legislation to improve its ability to combat arms trafficking.

Regarding the large number of individuals and entities that remain designated for asset freezes and travel bans, the draft resolution calls on the Committee to review the designations over the next 90 days and delist on a case by case basis those that no longer pose a threat. It is believed that the majority of these individuals and entities no longer have the means or desire to destabilise Liberia. The PoE in its latest report identified a number of these people that seem to no longer represent a threat, as well as some that continue to remain a threat to the country and sub-region.

Regarding the PoE, the draft resolution reduces the panel from three to two members, as it adjusts its mandate to no longer include the monitoring of natural resources and assessing their possible use in creating instability. This reduction in the PoE mandate was the most contentious point during the negotiations. The initial draft excluded mention of this aspect of the PoE mandate, which Liberia sanctions resolutions have included since the timber and diamond bans were lifted in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

For some Council members this omission came as a bit of a surprise because, as noted above, the latest PoE report depicts Liberia’s poor management of natural resources, along with issues of corruption and tensions over land rights, all of which were drivers of the country’s civil war. Additionally, mercenaries and armed groups operate in border areas where many of the country’s mines are located and illicit trafficking in diamonds and gold occurs.

Proponents for the scaled back PoE mandate contended that recent PoE reports show no link between natural resources and efforts to destabilise Liberia. They also noted that sanctions are not the appropriate tool to address the problems revealed by the PoE, which they see as related to government capacity. In response, a proposal was made that before ending the PoE’s role in monitoring natural resources, the Council should first provide UNMIL with a capacity building mandate for improving natural resource management.

Another proposal, presented by Luxembourg, was that the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) Liberia country configuration could monitor natural resources. This generated a lot of discussion with some members supporting the idea and others concerned about whether this would be feasible for the PBC. Russia ultimately objected to the suggestion arguing that a sanctions resolution should not be used to widen the mandate of the PBC, and made the point that the Council should not be adding a new mechanism when it is attempting to scale down the sanctions. Following an Australian suggestion, more general language was agreed to in an operative paragraph encouraging the international community, including all relevant entities, to support the government of Liberia’s reform efforts at ensuring that natural resources are contributing to peace, security and development.

In addition the draft resolution decides that the Council should review the sanctions again in six months with a view to further modifying or lifting all, or part, of the sanctions regime.

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