Sierra Leone raises revenues from mining but unemployment also rises, UN says

Sierra Leone raises revenues from mining but unemployment also rises, UN says

Diamond exporting revenues have risen about 60 per cent in post-conflict Sierra Leone, but youth unemployment is also rising, creating social tensions as the United Nations peacekeeping mission prepares to leave, a report to the Security Council from Secretary-General Kofi Annan says.

The recent upheavals in Côte d'Ivoire have also generated a flow of refugees into the neighbouring countries which threatens regional stability despite efforts to stabilize Liberia, the 24th report on the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) says.

In Sierra Leone, which came in last in this year's UN Development Programme (UNDP) survey of 177 countries on life span, education and standard of living, Government revenues rose as the Government cracked down on smuggling.

"By the end of October, revenues from official diamond exports had reached $120 million, compared to $71 million during the same period in 2003," the report says.

As UNAMSIL prepares to end its mandate in the country by February 2005, a peer review visit to the mineral-rich country, scheduled for early in the year, will look at its adherence to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a process that authenticates rough diamonds for legal export, the report says.

Meanwhile, UNAMSIL and UNDP recently organized a training programme for Sierra Leonean experts in geological information systems and data collection to help the Government in its efforts to establish a nationwide public survey of land, it says.

"Despite the stable security environment, the socio-economic situation in the country has continued to be very difficult, including rising youth unemployment and the (upwardly) spiralling prices of basic commodities, causing tensions among the population," the report says.

The lack of improvement in the living conditions of the majority of the population and the resulting negative impact on the prospects for national recovery cause serious concern, the report says, but it adds that the Government and its partners have been preparing a poverty reduction strategy paper.