Press Release / Oct. 25, 2002

World Diamond Cop-Out : NGOs Call on the Diamond Industry to Clean Up Its Act

As the World Diamond Congress (WDC) meets in London on 27-29 October 2002, ActionAid, Amnesty International and Global Witness will be there with a strong message for the diamond industry: the time for talking is over. The diamond industry must act now to eliminate the international trade in conflict diamonds. The NGO coalition will be at the WDC meeting to draw delegate’s attention to the fact that there are only 66 days before governments launch the Kimberley Process, an international control system for diamonds.

“20% of the diamonds sold worldwide are illicitly traded. Some of these diamonds are used to buy weapons for rebel groups in Africa, as well as financing conflicts. And yet diamond traders have failed to act,” said Alex Yearsley of Global Witness.

The diamond industry has repeatedly committed itself to self-regulation as part of the Kimberley Process, an international government agreement to stem the trade in conflict diamonds through an international diamond certification and verification system for rough diamonds to be launched on 1st January 2003. Accordingly, forty-five diamond producing, trading and marketing countries, including the European Union (EU), will establish new legislation and regulations. However, the monitoring of the system is entirely voluntary, and the diamond industry has so far refused to make public the details of the system of self-regulation that it proposes to introduce as part of the Kimberley Process.

Abraham Fischler, the President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), whose members will be present at the WDC meeting in London, recently declared with regards to conflict diamonds: “I do not believe that the world has any right to point a finger in our direction again…For too long, we have allowed ourselves to be sidetracked by extraneous political issues.”

“How can 3,000 amputees in Sierra Leone and the conflicts in Angola, DRC and Liberia be described as ‘an extraneous political issue’? The diamond industry is conducting a PR sham to show how responsible it is when at the same time it is dealing in conflict and illicit diamonds,” said Yearsley.

A recent United Nations report on the Democratic Republic of Congo presented to the Secretary General of the UN, Mr Kofi Annan, confirmed the continued role of diamonds in funding conflicts and human rights abuses. It condemns the diamond industry and devastatingly exposes how diamonds are still being used to pay for weapons.

“The UN’s dramatic expose of rampant conflict diamond dealing, shows that public statements made by the diamond industry over the last two years have been nothing but a PR smokescreen designed to confuse governments. Governments should be left with no option but to legislate against these reckless diamond traders,” said Amboka Wameyo of ActionAid.

The NGO coalition calls on the industry to “clean up its act” and to take concrete action at all levels of the industry by:
· Immediately publishing and implementing the details of the industry system of self-regulation;
· Implementing credible and independent monitoring of the industry system of self-regulation as agreed by the WDC in Milan, Italy, in March 2002;
· Developing a rigorous system of penalties to be applied to those who continue to trade in diamonds outside this
· Creating an intensive programme of education within the diamond industry to ensure compliance with all of the above.