Building Peace with Conflict Diamonds? Merging Security and Development in Sierra Leone


  • Philippe Le Billon,

    1. is associate professor at the Department of Geography and Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; e-mail:
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  • Estelle Levin

    1. is a founding director of Resource Consulting Services. She has eight years’ experience as a researcher and analyst specializing in the sustainability of natural resource-based economies, supply chains and governance systems, with a special focus on smallholder production. She can be contacted at e-mail:
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  • The authors wish to acknowledge field assistance from Babar Turay and comments from referees, as well as funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


This article examines the merging of security and development agendas in primary commodity sectors, focusing on the case of peace-building reforms in Sierra Leone's diamond sector. Reformers frequently assume that reforming the diamond sector through industrializing alluvial diamond mining will reduce threats to security and development, thereby contributing to peace building. Our findings, however, suggest that the industrialization of alluvial diamond mining that has taken place in Sierra Leone has not reduced threats to security and development, as it has entailed human rights abuses and impoverishment of local communities without consolidating state fiscal revenues and trust in local authorities. This suggests alternative strategies for resource-related peace-building initiatives, which we consider at the end of the article: the decriminalization of informal economic activities; the prioritization of local livelihoods and development needs over central government fiscal priorities and foreign direct investment; and better integration between local economies and industrial resource exploitation.