Global Witness Press Release: Antwerp Conference

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THE DIAMOND INDUSTRY – DO THEY HAVE A CONFLICT DIAMOND STRATEGY AT ALL?

Representatives of the international diamond industry are meeting in Antwerp this October 7th and 8th for a high profile conference to discuss International Diamond Policies and Strategies. Former Vice President Al Gore and the President of Botswana Festus Mogae are to attend. However Global Witness, after nearly four years of proposals and industry rhetoric wonders whether the diamond industry has any strategy or policy for implementing the Kimberley Process regulations on January 1st 2003, especially the much-discussed industry run and audited system of warranties.

On January 1st 2003 an international certification and verification system for rough diamonds, known as the Kimberley Process designed to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds is to be simultaneously implemented by nearly forty-five diamond producing, trading and marketing countries and the diamond industry. These procedures will be legally binding in national law and regulations.

However many in the diamond industry remain blissfully unaware of the Kimberley Process and the significant changes that it will bring to their industry. Only the industry can be blamed for failing to inform its members adequately. A European Commission Implementing Regulation, binding on all 15-member states is at the final stages of debate and is set to be adopted towards the end of October 2002.

Members of the diamond industry are still in self-denial over the Kimberley Process and conflict diamonds. This is a position that has not changed much when the home truths of conflict diamonds were brought identified by Global Witness in 1998. If this attitude persists within the diamond trade then many of them could be out of business on January 2nd 2002.

‘Attempting to blame only the African diamond producing nations for the failures and weaknesses of the diamond industry is unacceptable. A significant proportion of the responsibility lies with diamond traders who continue to buy diamonds from unknown sources and by default are aiding and abetting the financing of terrorism, drug money laundering and organised crime’, said Alex Yearsley, Lead Campaigner of Global Witness in London.

At the meeting the diamond industry will also be launching their Diamond Relief Fund. This belated financial effort could be construed as cynical PR exercise to deflect attention from the industries failure to present adequate proposals for industry self-regulation. Global Witness hopes the money raised is going to be directed to diamond war affected communities in Angola, Sierra Leone, the DRC and Liberia. Nothing below a minimum of an initial $10 million would be acceptable.

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