Industry Embraces Revised Clean Diamonds Act

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The revised compromise conflict diamond bill legislation announced on June 21 was a collaborative effort between Rep. Tony Hall, the World Diamond Council (WDC) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Senate bill, retaining the name of Hall’s House bill, “The Clean Diamonds Act” (S.1084), was worked out and written up in 18 days. The

legistration was introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Russ Feingold (D-WI).

“Bills are typically negotiated over many months,” said Debra DeYoung, senior aide to Rep. Hall. Negotiations for the Senate version of the bill, however, noted DeYoung, “consisted of a team that was very efficient and constructive. Everybody had a sufficient level of comfort with each other.”

DeYoung noted that Rep. Hall is pleased with the compromise bill and appreciates that industry leaders came directly to him to work on a new draft. The real “deal breaker” she said, was in narrowing the definition of jewelry in the bill to “diamond jewelry” in order to avoid any confusion with U.S. Customs regulations. “The industry,” she said “went the extra mile to satisfy our concerns.” The new version of the Clean Diamonds Act, she noted, may be attached to other proposed legislation, such as a spending bill.

Rep. Hall’s House bill will not be pulled or revised, said DeYoung. Hall anticipates that the Senate bill will be passed by Congress, “but just in case any complications arise, he’d like the House bill to remain in place.”

Senator Feingold said that he hoped the legislation “will help to build momentum behind the multilateral efforts currently underway to regulate the diamond trade and to create a clean stream for the legitimate diamond industry and consumers to rely upon.”

Adotei Akwei, Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International, said that he does not anticipate any NGOs to continue their jewelry protests, “as long as the diamond industry lives up to its commitment of cooperation.”

The latest proposed conflict diamond legislation, which follows bills introduced earlier this year by Rep. Hall and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), Akwei said, “includes what we didn’t want to lose: coverage of the diamond jewelry issue, the limited ability of the President to extend waivers and a firm deadline for countries to comply with control regulations.”

DeYoung added that an invitation was extended to Senator Gregg to attend the announcement of the new legislation but he declined. “Gregg wanted the ideas from his bill included, which doesn’t narrow the definition of jewelry and doesn’t mention the Kimberly Process.” She said, however, that she doubts Gregg will speak out against the comprise bill when it comes up for vote later this year.

Fred Michmershuizen, a spokesman for the Jewelers of America (JA), said that all those involved in the compromise bill “hope that Senator Gregg will be persuaded to co-sponsor the bill. For now, he will be on the sidelines and supporting his own bill.” In April, Matthew Runci, president and CEO for JA, came out in support of Gregg’s bill, “Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001.” Michmershuizen said the new bill was the best of the three proposed conflict diamond bills and “something everyone is behind.” Once the bill is passed, he said, “retailers can tell their customers assuredly that their diamonds are conflict free. They can’t do that now.”

Runci said he is “delighted” that a compromise agreement has been reached that all parties can support. The bill, he added, “is the result of intense negotiations in recent weeks between representatives of Congressman Tony Hall’s office, the U.S. NGO community and representatives of the diamond and jewelry industry.”

Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the WDC, said “we are very pleased to add our voices to those who support this legislation. This is a bill with tough but fair standards that will keep illegitimate diamonds out of the U.S. while allowing legitimate diamond industries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia to flourish.”

Holly Burkhalter, advocacy director of Physicians for Human Rights and coordinator of the Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds, said that the diamond industry and NGOs “have worked to develop a bill that meets the needs of both sides and we are committed to working together to get the compromise legislation passed into law.” Burkhalter specifically commended the WDC “for its seriousness in addressing the concerns of the Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds.”

How the Industry Can Help

Adotei Akwei of Amnesty International said that NGOs welcome a combined effort with retailers and other members of the industry to educate congressional members about the new Clean Diamonds Act and to take an active role in working towards its passage. Akwei recommends that: The industry invest resources into an educational effort to spread the word about the importance of the bill; individuals can lobby legislators in Washington, D.C. or representatives at their local district; members of NGOs and the diamond industry can lobby legislators as a group; and obtain a celebrity spokes person to endorse the bill in consumer ad campaigns.

DeYoung added that the industry can help to undo the perception on Capital Hill that Botswana and De Beers are not committed to the Clean Diamonds Act. “We must as a group persuade legislators that this is not true,” she said.

A vital part of the lobbying effort, DeYoung said, is that industry members visit legislators in their home district. When members of Congress see lobbyists in their own turf, she explained, they also view these people as potential voters. “If you approach a member of Congress and tell him or her that you employ 10 or 100 people in their district, they’re going to listen.”

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