No peace with blood diamonds
10/12/2007 – by D+C | E+Z
In the summer, the UN Peacebuilding Commission presented a draft stabilisation strategy for Sierra Leone. Since September, it has been negotiating its terms with the newly elected government of President Ernest Bai Koroma. The priorities set out in the draft document include
– reducing unemployment (especially of youth),
– reforming the security sector,
– strengthening democracy and good governance, and
– building capacities.
In response to this draft, the British non-governmental organisation Global Witness complains that the document does not mention the extraction of natural resources. Global Witness considers this a troubling omission, as the fight for diamond deposits fuelled the conflict in Sierra Leone and the civil war was funded for years with revenues from precious stones. “Failure to recognise the role of natural resources in Sierra Leone’s peacebuilding strategy from the onset could prove a dangerous oversight and undermine peacebuilding efforts,” Global Witness states in a submission to the Peacebuilding Commission.
According to Global Witness, the Sierra Leonean diamond industry still lacks transparency. Mining rights have been granted without consulting the people living in the areas concerned, it says, and without giving them a share of the revenues. The way revenues are allocated from a special development fund for the diamond-producing chiefdoms is opaque, the organisation concludes. A considerable share of the diamonds extracted are exported illegally. Moreover, the labour conditions in the mines are said to be appalling, with most of the estimated 150,000 or more diamond diggers using very primitive equipment.
The diamond sector is thus one of the areas in which Global Witness wants to see the UN Commission support the government of Sierra Leone. Global Witness is in favour of establishing an independent institution to monitor the industry, reform the way mining rights are granted, and review existing concessions. Emerging from talks in New York, a Global Witness activist remarked that representatives of the Commission had responded positively to the proposals.
The Peacebuilding Commission was established by resolution at the United Nations jubilee summit in 2005. Its mission is to develop peace-building strategies, coordinate the activities of international organisations in post-conflict countries, and marshal financial resources. Sierra Leone is one of two countries in which the UN Peacebuilding Commission, established in 2006, has been active so far. The other is Burundi. (ell)