Cecilia Gardner’s Statement to U.S. House of Representatives

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The following is the statement of Cecilia Gardner, executive director of the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee and general counsel for the World Diamond Council, at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means hearing on the trade of conflict diamonds, on October 10, 2001, in Washington, DC.:

I am Cecilia Gardner, executive director of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and general counsel of the World Diamond Council. I am grateful to the Subcommittee for the opportunity to testify on the critical need for enactment of legislation to eliminate conflict diamonds.

The Jewelers Vigilance Committee, with a membership of 11,000 retailers, manufacturers and related enterprises, dates to 1917. We have the task of upholding ethical standards in our business, emphasizing both self-regulation and compliance with all relevant laws.

With this mission in mind, it was natural for the JVC to become a founding constituent of the World Diamond Council. The WDC was organized during the summer of 2000 for the purpose of constructing an effective system to protect the legitimate supply chain of diamonds – worldwide – from pollution by conflict diamonds.

This afternoon I would like to provide a brief summary of the international efforts to end the conflict diamond trade. This will provide context for our view that enactment of the Clean Diamonds Trade Act is necessary to get the job done.

For several years, as awareness of the problem grew, attempts were made to counter it. For instance, in June of 1998, Security Council Resolution 1173 targeted Angola’s illicit diamond trade; two years later, Security Council Resolution 1306 aimed at illegal exports from Sierra Leone. Other measures sought to deal with Liberia’s role in illicit traffic and related issues.

Country-specific executive orders by both the Clinton administration and the current administration followed these U.N. initiatives. Each was appropriate, but proved to be insufficient. For a brief period in 1999, it was thought that Sierra Leone would be spared further suffering thanks to the Lomé peace accord – which the U.S. helped to broker – but that agreement was short-lived.

Meanwhile, evidence mounted that proceeds from diamonds were a leading source of revenue to rebels and adventurers whose only cause was profit. The societies of Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo were crumbling in the process. While the immediate victims were the innocent citizens of those nations, others were prospective casualties – starting with peaceful African countries that rely heavily on legitimate extraction and export of diamonds. Ultimately, a global industry, in which the United States is a major participant, could be blighted. Therefore a coordinated, comprehensive international response is necessary.

This realization called into being – in the spring of 2000 — an ad hoc coalition that came to be known as the Kimberley Process, after the site of its first meeting in South Africa. Soon after, all the significant private-sector members of the diamond industry met in Antwerp. That session adopted a set of strong principles to protect the legitimate supply chain and authorized creation of the WDC, an industry coalition that had its organizing meeting in September 2000. Representatives of American organizations and individual companies have played prominent roles in the WDC from the beginning. I have been among the WDC team participating in Kimberley working sessions in Africa and Europe.

These efforts have had some success. With the advice of the WDC, the Kimberley Process has agreed on the main ingredients of an international monitoring system to protect the legitimate supply chain. The major features of that system are now being employed in a pilot program that controls the export of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to Belgium. Last December, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously endorsed the same principles and called for comprehensive application by all relevant countries.

There is broad agreement on the following:

• Countries significantly involved in the extraction, processing, transshipment and importation of diamonds should adopt compatible monitoring methods.

• This system should include, among other things, use of counterfeit-proof certificates of origin of rough diamonds, tamper-proof containers for shipments, and electronic data bases to track shipments.

• Violators should be subject to stiff penalties.

• Legitimate diamond producing countries should not be adversely affected by the monitoring regime.

While these and other points of agreement represent progress, the picture is still incomplete. What is missing is effective implementation of these excellent goals.

The World Diamond Council believes that legislative action by the United States is necessary to achieve this breakthrough. Interested parties for months debated the details of the legislation and now we have found common ground in the form of the Clean Diamonds Trade Act. It encompasses the best features of earlier bills. It is enforceable. It provides the executive branch sufficient flexibility. It is consistent with the principles adopted by the U.N. and the Kimberley Process. It serves the interests of all the African diamond-producing nations. It does not impinge on U.S. commitments to the World Trade Organization. It is what American importers and retailers need to protect their reputation and their products’ standing in the marketplace.

Members of Congress know that is very unusual for any industry to request government intervention in its affairs. But conflict diamonds pose a very unusual menace. The industry has gone a long way toward meeting this challenge. Now the government’s assistance is necessary to finish the job.

Thank you for your attention. I would happy to answer any questions you might have.

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