Conflict Diamonds-More Bad News

Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa
February 14, 2002

An estimated $300-$500 million worth of diamonds is being used every year by rebel armies to buy weapons and fight wars in Africa. An estimated 500,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives over the past decade in the diamond wars of Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The issue of conflict diamonds has been public knowledge for more than three years. It has been debated in the United Nations and it has been the subject of almost a dozen inter-governmental meetings, known as the Kimberley Process.

So far, however, little has been accomplished. The UN Security Council has banned all diamonds from Liberia, a country that supported Sierra Leone's brutal Revolutionary United Front by trading guns for diamonds. It has insisted that all Sierra Leonean and Angolan diamonds should be accompanied by a government certificate of origin. Apart from that, there have been few changes. Massive volumes of diamonds reach the trading centres of Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Bombay and New York from countries that have no virtually no diamonds of their own: Gambia, Rwanda, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville. Belgian diamond imports from Guinea, Central African Republic, Cí´te d'Ivoire and elsewhere far exceed the production capacities in those countries. Illicit and conflict diamonds travel the world with impunity. Once they are mixed with clean diamonds, they have been effectively laundered.

At the initiative of the Government of South Africa, 35 governments, the diamond industry and civil society organizations have been meeting since May 2000 in an attempt to devise a global certification system for rough diamonds. Under this system, no country would allow the import of rough diamonds that are not accompanied by a recognized certificate of origin. The proposed system, which will be finalized at a Kimberley Process meeting in Ottawa March 18-20, currently lacks enough provisions to make it effective. There is no agreement on the creation of a public international data base on the production and trade in rough diamonds. The provisions for monitoring are feeble. There has been no agreement on international coordination, and there are debates about whether the system will be WTO-compatible.

In December 2000, the UN General Assembly asked for a report on KP progress. After almost two years of meetings, there has been far too little progress. The Ottawa meeting must solve the outstanding problems. Otherwise the legitimate diamond industry, which provides hundreds of thousands of jobs in many countries, will face growing consumer outrage. No job in Botswana or India or Canada is worth the life of a child in Angola, a mother in Sierra Leone or a father in Congo. The attached 'Report Card' on the Kimberley Process has been prepared by seven of the many international organizations that have been following the Kimberley Process.

More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on The Dark Side of Natural Resources.

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