Global Policy Forum

Diamond Rules Slow in Developing

April 27, 2001

Diamond industry representatives, humanitarian aid agencies and human rights activists Friday said governments are not working fast enough to stamp out the trade in ``conflict diamonds'' used to finance war in Africa. ``The whole process is danger of unraveling,'' said a statement by 70 interest groups at a three-day meeting with governments and industry.

``The time for hiding behind vague bureaucratic working and platitudes is over ... further stalling and inaction will damage the credibility and the viability of the diamond industry,'' said the statement issued by the humanitarian organizations which included Global Witness, Oxfam and Partnership Africa Canada. The statement reflected widespread frustration at the lack of progress in implementing tougher controls almost a year after the diamond industry announced it was clamping down on illicit diamond sales blamed for fueling conflict in Angola, Sierra Leone and Congo. ``Participating countries do not want to stand up to their responsibilities,'' said Charmain Gooch, director of the London-based Global Witness.

The 38 nations participating in the so-called ``Kimberley process,'' have set a goal of getting an agreement by next year on minimum standards for certifying that diamonds exported from producer countries are legal and are not being sold to fund conflicts. Thibedi Ramontja, the South African official who chaired the meeting, acknowledged the difficulties reaching consensus on a single set of rules that will trace diamonds from the mine to the jewelry store. ``It is not an easy process. In the end we want a document that represents all of the interests,'' Ramontja said. Among the issues blocking a deal were disagreements over whether to allow one universal certificate for gems, and over who pays import duties on gems.

Talks started in Kimberley, South Africa, last May by an industry keen to clean up its image in light of revelations of how black market diamonds were funding some of Africa's most brutal conflicts. At the meeting, Congo's government complained it had lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to the illicit trade in its gems by rebels backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

A recent U.N. report accused those three nations, along with companies and a growing international network of criminal cartels, of systematically exploiting Congo's resources during the 2 year civil war. The United Nations has already banned diamond exports by rebels in Angola and Sierra Leone in a bid to strangle their ability to finance their wars. It has called for similar action in Congo.

More Information on Diamonds in conflict


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