Press Release / Sept. 28, 2006

GAO report condemns weak US effort to combat conflict diamonds

Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada call on the US government to enforce diamond law

Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada call on the US government to take swift action to implement recommendations in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the United States.(1) The GAO report shows that conflict diamonds may be entering the US because of major weaknesses in the implementation of the Clean Diamond Trade Act, the US law which implements the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the government-run international diamond certification scheme.

“This report shows that the US government has inadequately enforced the Clean Diamond Trade Act, undermining global efforts to keep conflict diamonds out of the legitimate diamond trade,” said Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness. “This is alarming given that proceeds from the diamond trade have been used by warlords and rebel groups in Africa to finance devastating wars, while terrorists and organized crime groups have used diamonds for money-laundering and other illicit purposes.”

According to the GAO report “the United Nations (UN) and other sources report that illicit trading of rough diamonds still exists and could potentially finance civil conflicts as well as criminal and terrorist activities.” Currently, there is an embargo on diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire due to the role that diamonds are playing in that country’s conflict. Investigations by the UN and Global Witness have shown that conflict diamonds are being smuggled out of Cote d’Ivoire and into the legitimate diamond trade.

The GAO report states that “because of weaknesses of the system, the United States cannot ensure that illicit rough diamonds are not traded.” These weaknesses include lack of regular physical inspections of rough diamond imports and exports, poor statistics on rough diamonds and no plan for monitoring the Kimberley Process Authority, a private entity run by US diamond trade groups which issues rough diamond certificates. GAO puts forward several recommendations for improving the system, including improving accuracy of rough diamond statistics, periodic physical inspections of rough diamond imports and exports and better oversight of the Kimberley Process Authority.

“Given that the US is the world’s largest consumer of diamond jewellery, the US government must take a leadership role by making sure that its own laws are robust in keeping out conflict diamonds, supporting the Kimberley Process and protecting the legitimate diamond trade,” said Ian Smillie, of Partnership Africa Canada.

The GAO report further concludes: “To succeed, KPCS depends on all participants having strong control systems and procedures for collecting and sharing trade data on rough diamonds, for inspecting imports and exports of these diamonds, and for tracking confirmations of import and export receipts.”

Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada call on the US government to fully implement all of the GAO report recommendations and urge other governments to study the report with a view to implementing more rigorous controls within their own borders.

Corinna Gilfillan, Lead Campaigner, Global Witness: +1 202 721 5600, 1 202 725 8705
Susie Sanders, Campaigner, Global Witness: +44 7703 108401
Ian Smillie, Research Coordinator, Partnership Africa Canada: +1 613 728 9725

Notes for editors:
(1) The GAO, commonly called the investigative arm of the United States Congress or “the congressional watchdog”, is independent and non-partisan. The GAO advises Congress and the heads of executive agencies about ways to make government more effective and responsive.