Security Council ends ban on import of Sierra Leone rough diamonds

Citing the Government of Sierra Leone’s increased efforts to control its diamond mining areas and industry, the United Nations Security Council today dropped its ban on precious stones from the West African country imposed in a bid to prevent illicitly traded rough diamonds being used to finance armed conflict. The Council’s President for June, Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation, also cited Sierra Leone’s full participation in the Kimberley Process as among the reasons the 15-nation body agreed not to renew the three-year old embargo, which expired at midnight yesterday. The Kimberley Process is a negotiating procedure to establish minimum acceptable international standards for national certification covering the import and export of rough diamonds. It also includes participation by the European Community and countries that produce and trade in the stones, industry representatives and civil society. “Members of the Council commended the Government’s efforts to strengthen and improve their management of the diamond industry,” Ambassador Lavrov said in a press statement, adding that they encouraged Freetown to continue these efforts and to work closely with UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in ensuring the security of the diamond mining areas. He stressed that Council members agreed to continue to pay close attention to the diamond sector of Sierra Leone because of its importance to the future stability and security of the country. read more

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UN Childrens Fund reports favourable progress in Afghanistan

Congratulating partners in government, non-government organizations, fellow UN agencies and local communities for making such progress possible, the UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, Sharad Sapra, also noted that more than 700,000 women had received life-saving tetanus vaccinations.Two new centres of excellence in maternal health had been opened in Kabul, the capital, and Jalalabad, in the east, and 4 million children, including 1.2 million girls, had returned to school, restoring the boy-to-girl ratio to what it was before the Taliban took power and banned the schooling of girls, Mr. Sapra said in a statement released in Kabul.“That means a seven-year education deficit has been wiped out in just 24 months,” he added, noting that 50,000 primary school teachers had also been trained.Reassuring the Afghan people of UNICEF’s long-term commitment to the reconstruction process, Mr. Sapra declared: “UNICEF never left Afghanistan over the last five decades. Even in the darkest hours, our Afghan staff continued to deliver vital services for children and women.”But he added that it was crucial Afghanistan did not slip from the donors’ radar screens among all the other global issues attracting international attention. “If it does, then the world will have failed the very women and children that it promised never to forget just two years ago.” read more

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