UN lifts ban on Côte d’Ivoire diamond trade

2 May 2014

UN lifts ban on Côte d’Ivoire diamond trade

The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to lift a moratorium on rough diamond imports from the Côte d’Ivoire.

The diamond embargo was put in place in 2005, following a period of civil war in the troubled West African country, only now emerging from a decade of instability.

Trade in diamonds from conflict affected regions became the subject of heightened international scrutiny in the 1990s as reports emerged of profits being used to buy arms, together with a series of human rights abuses, leading to the nickname “blood diamonds.”

Kimberley Process success

Tuesday’s Resolution emphasised the lifting of the ban came “in light of the progress made towards Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) implementation and better governance of the sector.”

The text noted that as of last November the Côte d’Ivoire had passed the minimum requirements set out by the KPCS, an inter-governmental agreement charged with ensuring bloodless diamond trade.

The Kimberley Process (KP) imposes requirements on its members – currently numbering 54 and representing 99.8 percent of global diamond production – to certify shipments of the precious stones. Members can only trade diamonds with other KP participants who have met the standards, an arrangement sanctioned by a waiver under WTO law.

Earlier in April however, a group of UN experts expressed concern that Abidjan had not made enough effort to stem the country’s illegal diamond trade, valued between US$12 and US$23 million. According to Reuters, the UN group had written to the KP to express their reservations and suggest further talks.

The Security Council itself also requested Ivorian authorities update the body on the government’s progress in moving forward with an Action Plan for re-establishing the domestic diamond industry, as well as to report on efforts to crackdown on illegal stone activity. The country is also encouraged to undergo a KP review visit within six months of the first diamond exports.

Reuters reported before that vote that one council diplomat, speaking anonymously, had said that lifting the diamond moratorium would help stem the country’s illegal diamond trade.

In the months ahead of Tuesday’s decision, Ivorian diplomats had pushed hard for the ban’s removal, in hopes of using funds from a legal diamond trade as part of efforts to stitch the country back together again. According to industry experts, prior to the moratorium the Ivory Coast produced around 300,000 carets of diamond a year, worth approximately US$25 million.

Arms embargo relaxed

Tuesday’s decision also saw a partial relaxation of a 2004 arms embargo on the country. The new rules permit government forces to be able to purchase light weapons, although Abidjan will still need to notify a UN committee of any such transactions.

“The government of Côte d’Ivoire remains committed to fully cooperate with the United Nations and the international community in order to carry out all of the expected reforms in this regard,” Ivorian UN Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba said.

ICTSD reporting; “U.N. security Council lifts ban on Ivory Coast diamond exports,” REUTERS, 29 April 2014.

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