Officials of 26 governments striving to end the immoral trade in conflict diamonds reached a milestone this week by establishing a joint task force with industry representative to complete technical work on an international certification system for rough diamonds.
This initiative follows the adoption by the UN General Assembly in December 2000 of a resolution calling for development of solutions to the conflict diamond problem.
The task force, consisting of governmental representatives and members of the World Diamond Council (WDC), will be responsible for finalizing the system designed to keep tainted stones out of the legitimate supply chains.
The system’s core will consist of a “certificate of origin” program that allows for rough diamonds to be reliably tracked from the point of extraction to processing centers. This mechanism will prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate supply chain.
This week’s meting was one in a series called the Kimberley Process, begun last year on the initiative of South Africa. Participants now include all the nations that have significant roles in the mining, processing and importing of diamonds. The Word Diamond Council, representing all segments of the industry, was created to combat traffic in illicit conflict diamonds.
The next meeting of the Kimberley Process will take place in Belgium in April 2001, and will examine in detail existing national import and export controls relating to the trade in rough diamonds.
Mr. Kennedy Hamutenya, Namibia’s Director of Mines and Acting Diamond Commissioner, said, “Namibia is proud to have been a founding member of the Kimberley Process and to serve as host country for this meeting, which has proven to be a very important chapter in the group’s work.
“Going forward, it is clear that many parties of goodwill from both the public and private sectors will continue to pursue this very worthwhile cause. Diamonds should be pure blessing to those who mine them, process them and wear them. We will assure that is the case by driving out those who attempt to pollute legitimate supplies with conflict diamonds.”
Mr. Eli Izhakoff, Chairman of the World Diamond Council, said, “From the beginning of this effort, it has been clear that the key to success is collaboration among the relevant nations and between governments and industry. It is most fitting that African leaders took the initiative by starting the Kimberley Process. It has turned out to be a unique example of progressive cooperation.
“The World Diamond Council is very pleased that it can be useful in bringing this work to fruition. What has been accomplished here, and in other settings is very promising. We must also be aware that, even when a certification system is established, our work will not be done. Lasting success depends on sound implementation and continued scrutiny. The industry is committed to this effort over the long run.”
Mr. Andrey N. Kutepov, First Deputy Head of Gokhran of Russia, said, “The Windhoek Conference on Conflict Diamonds has made important progress in two fronts. First, we have established a detailed roadmap for our work to develop an international certification for rough diamonds. Second, we have put in place a joint government–industry task force to coordinate and accelerate our work.”
On a related issue, Mr. Hamutenya said that the African representatives to the Windhoek meeting agreed to the following joint statement:
As we have made significant progress in our meeting, we are aware of a new “education campaign” by some groups in the United States on the same issue. They share our goal. However, the tactics they are employing are counterproductive and potentially damaging to the African countries that depend on legitimate diamond exports. The material being circulated threatens to undermine confidence in diamonds generally rather than focusing on the specific problem before us.
These groups appear to believe that a particular legislative proposal being introduced in the United States Congress represents the “silver bullet”. In fact, the conflict diamonds issue is complex. Legislation by the United States must be carefully crafted and the views of the non-United States parties considered. In attempting to compel support for a single legislative proposal, these groups are creating needless confrontation. Cooperation among all interested parties would be much more helpful.