Tony Hall: Conflict Diamonds Are A Serious Problem

150 150 Rapaport News

Tony Hall: Conflict Diamonds Are A Serious Problem

Tony Hall

How serious is the problem of Conflict Diamonds?

The blood trade is currently a matter of life and death for people in the countries torn apart by wars over conflict diamonds — Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia. It also poses a future threat to these and other countries because the ease with which these diamonds move through retail channels means any country with alluvial diamonds could be thrown into turmoil. And it’s an ongoing problem for the legitimate diamond industry, which has built its success on a product image that is the polar opposite of reality in these African countries.

I think this is a serious problem, and not simply because rebels are sustaining their wars with their diamond revenues. It’s also serious because it threatens to strip diamonds of some of their mystique and appeal, by exposing the difference between how most Americans see diamonds and how too many Africans do. The damage this trade in conflict diamonds could do to the democratic countries that depend on the legitimate trade, to workers in the industry, and to honest businesspeople ought to make this problem as intolerable for them as it is for Africans caught up in these

diamond wars.

How does the Clean Diamond Trade Act help solve this problem?

The Clean Diamond Trade Act aims to lend the considerable power of American consumers to international efforts to end this blood trade by insisting that diamonds imported to the United States are not stripped from African nations, traded for weapons, and turned against their people. It does this by requiring countries exporting diamonds to the United States to enforce laws against smuggling diamonds, and strengthen them to combat the shortcomings the trade in conflict diamonds has exposed. The President would determine which countries were taking effective action against this scourge, and Customs officials would permit imports from those countries. Safeguards would help spot contraband and shield the legitimate trade from intrusive regulation. And an advisory commission, which will include members of civil society and participants in the diamond industry, would ensure the legislation remains focused on the real problem.

What can the diamond and jewelry industry do to help Congress pass the legislation?

The World Diamond Council, including Jewelers of America, is working together with a coalition of more than 100 human rights, humanitarian and faith groups to enact the Clean Diamond Trade Act. They are pressing senators and members of congress to ensure American consumers that the money they spend on tokens of love and commitment is not used to destroy lives and communities in Africa by approving this bill.

If members of the diamond and jewelry industry would pitch in, I believe congress would act. If everyone would pick up the phone and contact the five most powerful people he or she knows, it would make a tremendous difference. The first calls should be to the individual member of the U.S. House of Representatives who represents you, plus your two senators. The switchboard number is 202.224.3121. Other calls should be to anyone else who may make a difference — to your local Chamber of Commerce, seeking their help; to your church or temple, asking them to get involved in the outreach to faith groups; to anyone in the Bush Administration, asking them to weigh in; to your local newspaper; to any person or group that has an interest in making sure diamonds are not tainted by the atrocities that accompany wars for their control. Industry groups’ websites have useful information, as does the Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds at

Americans buy more than half of the world’s diamonds; we have tremendous consumer muscle that easily could be used to help African civilians who have been terrorized by rebels whose signature tactic is the amputation of hands, ears, noses, and legs; and by other military forces that have carved out large, no-go zones where starvation and disease rage outside the reach of aid workers, and that have left behind land mines and carnage. Members of the diamond industry are working hard with those in civil society to help end this terror. The support of their colleagues will be essential to their success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.