What's In Blue

Posted Tue 24 May 2016

Council Resolution to Terminate Liberia Sanctions Regime

Tomorrow morning (25 May), the Council is expected to adopt a resolution that terminates the Liberia sanctions regime. This will end the remaining arms measures, the Liberia 1521 sanctions committee and the Panel of Experts, which were established in 2003. The US, as penholder on Liberia, circulated a draft of the resolution on 17 May, and an expert level meeting was held on 19 May. The draft text was put under silence procedure yesterday and is now in blue.

The sanctions on Liberia have been reduced over the years so that they currently only include an arms embargo on non-state actors and a requirement that the 1521 Committee be notified in advance of arms transfers to the Liberian government. Last September, resolution 2237 terminated the asset freeze and travel ban measures, which resulted in the delisting of 51 individuals and entities. On 13 May, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), Chair of the Liberia sanctions committee, briefed members in consultations on the committee’s activities and the final report of the Panel of Experts (S/2016/348). During the consultations, the US informed members of its plans to end the sanctions in the upcoming resolution. Other members in their interventions expressed support for the idea.

During his briefing, Yelchenko highlighted the Panel’s concerns about the potential threat of terrorism to Liberia given the recent attacks in Cote d’Ivoire, and operational challenges of law enforcement in controlling the illicit movements of arms and ammunition. Moreover, despite some progress, Liberia has still not adopted the draft firearms and ammunition control act, and the marking of the security forces’ arms is incomplete. As the Panel of Experts has repeatedly reported, until this legislation is adopted, the government lacks the legal framework to regulate the purchase and possession of arms.

In spite of these concerns, members seem to share the view that Liberia is stable nearly thirteen years after the end of the civil war, and that most of these are problems of governance for which sanctions are not the most appropriate tool. Moreover, the remaining sanctions are very limited and their impact is not very significant.

While there was no disagreement over the draft resolution’s main provisions to end the sanctions regime, members made a number of proposals that resulted in changes to the draft. Some of these were simply to make the text consistent with the language of resolution 2283, which terminated the Cote d’Ivoire sanctions regime last month.
Reflecting concerns of the Panel, the draft resolution encourages the government to expedite the adoption and implementation of arms management legislation and other steps to establish the necessary legal and administrative framework to combat illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition. Based on a proposal by Ukraine, language was added stressing the need for Liberia to continue making progress related to arms and border management in order to further contribute to the country’s peace and stability. Further progress in these areas seems particularly important in light of Liberia assuming full security responsibilities from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) at the end of June.

The sticking point occurred over China and Russia’s preference, supported by Egypt and Venezuela, to eliminate reference to the transparent and effective management of natural resources. It seems that they felt such language was intrusive and that the Council should not be dictating to Liberia how to manage its natural resources. The US contended that this reference was agreed language from resolution 2237 and remained an important issue for the termination of the sanctions since resolution 1521 that created the regime referred to the need for Liberia to establish “transparent” and “effective” measures for natural resources. (The Liberia sanctions regime previously included sanctions on rough diamonds and timber that were completely lifted in 2007 and monitored by the Panel of Experts until December 2013). This morning Russia broke silence over this issue but the US chose to put the draft resolution in blue with no changes.

Another proposals not included was one from Uruguay that would have incorporated language about sustainable peace from resolution 2282 on the peacebuilding architecture review. The US argued that its inclusion would be more appropriate in the resolution later this year on the UN Mission in Liberia, which will have a stronger country-specific context.