Global Policy Forum

Conflict Diamonds Being Squeezed

Angola Peace Monitor
October 4, 2000

A major inter-ministerial meeting in Pretoria has agreed that there must be urgent action to stop the trade in conflict diamonds, which has funded rebel movements in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. The meeting paves the way for a process to secure a formal world-wide binding intergovernmental agreement to crack down on the trade in conflict diamonds through a global certification scheme.

The diamond industry is facing one of the biggest shake-ups in its history as the combined efforts of governments, producers, polishers, traders and non-governmental organisations begin to shape a global certification scheme for diamonds. Campaigns by organisations including ACTSA have contributed towards the growing public awareness of how diamonds had become the main source of revenue for UNITA, had begun to threaten the image of diamonds as objects of beauty. People involved in the diamond business have also been stung by criticisms in the Fowler Report on sanctions busting by UNITA (for a summary or the report -

In response to the dangers posed by conflict diamonds, a series of meetings has culminated in a major conference held in Pretoria, South Africa, on 19-20 September, followed by a ministerial meeting on 21 September attended by representatives from 20 countries, and from the major diamond industry producers, polishers and traders, and non-governmental organisations.

Opening the ministerial meeting, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa's Minister of Minerals and Energy, stated that "we need a strategy to eliminate poverty, without one we cannot hope to succeed in attaining the goal of sustainable development. The mineral resource industry is recognised as the single most critical industry for economies of developing countries. It is not a renewable resource; it has to provide more than profit for its shareholders. It has to support development".

The ministerial meeting declared that "conflict diamonds make up only a small fraction of the overall market for rough diamonds. The legitimate diamond trade makes a critical contribution to economic development world-wide. For this reason we need to devise pragmatic and effective measures to address the problem of conflict diamonds, while ensuring that we do not harm the legitimate diamond industry".

The meeting agreed on proposals for mechanisms for:

A global certification scheme An overseeing international body An international database to track the flow of rough diamonds Legal sanctions on those breaking rules Measures to regulate artisanal producers

The meeting follows on from an African regional initiative, the Kimberley Technical Forum, held in South Africa in May 2000 which set up a Working Group to come up with proposals. These proposals eventually secured support within the diamond industry.

At the Okinawa summit in July the Heads of Government of the G8 group of nations called for an international conference to consider a legally binding international agreement on a certification scheme for rough diamonds.

Speaking at the Pretoria conference on 21 September, Britain's Minister for Africa, Peter Hain, stated that "those diamonds that are fuelling conflict in Africa can appear anywhere on global markets, from London and Antwerp to Tel Aviv and Bombay, to Moscow and New York. That is why we need to work together at a global level". He went on to announce that, building on the Kimberley process, the British government has offered to co-host a major conference in London at the end of October or the beginning on November. The aim of the London conference is to widen support for the certification scheme to countries who are currently outside or have only recently joined the Kimberley process. He named Brazil, Venezuela, Australia and India as countries he hopes will attend the conference.

The British government, along with South Africa and others is intending to co-sponsor a resolution at the UN General Assembly, to endorse a global certification scheme which would set the scene for a simple international treaty to be incorporated into international law.

Angolan efforts to tighten up diamond industry

The Deputy Minister of Geology and Mines, Carlos Sumbula, and ASCORP head Noe Baltazar, announced at the conference that small scale miners in Angola will have sixty days to register their business and start paying their taxes. In return miners will get licences and identity cards, making their businesses legal. It is estimated that there are around 300,000 unlicensed miners in Angola, extracting £300 million worth of gems.

A critical element of the package is that the artisanal producers be offered competitive prices for their stones from the government channels - thus seeking to undermine the incentive for smuggling or selling to unofficial channels. This is also intended to further isolate UNITA-originated stones. Noe Baltazar acknowledged the enormity of the task the government has set for itself.

More Information on Diamonds in Conflict


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