Renew Call on Ivory Coast Ban, NGO Says Not Enough

150 150 Rapaport News

(Rapaport…November 15, 2005) In almost simultaneous meetings at major hubs in Russia and India, diamond industry leaders gathered to address a number of issues related to the industry and specifically instructed all players to uphold the diamond as conflict free.

At the World Federation of Diamond Bourses meeting in Mumbai, which ended November 15, industry leaders called upon bourse members to follow continued calls from the Kimberley Process chairman to refuse rough from Cote d’Ivoire (also the Ivory Coast.) [Read meeting summary.]

Originally published on Rapaport News October 6, 2005, Kimberley Process chairman Vyacheslav Shtyrov repeated his 12-month long warning that illegal rough diamonds could find their way into the legitimate trade. In October 2004 the government of Cote d’Ivoire notified Shtyrov that rough exports remained banned following minister orders of November 2002, but it said diamond production was continuing. Shtyrov informed the industry of the ban during October and November 2004, and he asked participants to inform their customs officials not to accept rough shipments bearing Kimberley Process certificates from Cote d’Ivoire.

Illicit rough from Côte d’Ivoire poses great risk to the certification scheme, said Shtyrov in his renewed call to action. Cote d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, borders Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso. The United States lists the Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Ghana as rough diamond trading partners, but does not list Liberia, Mali, or Burkina Faso. Furthermore, at press time, the Kimberley Process website lists Cote d’Ivoire as a participating member.

In Moscow, Russia’s finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, said Russia is committed to contributing more to the Kimberley Process in a bid to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. Kudrin, who also serves on the supervisory board of ALROSA, led discussions kicking-off the Kimberley Process Plenary, which runs from November 15 through 17. Kudrin said that the Kimberley initiative has earned worldwide prestige and is responsible for increasing “the willingness of various U.N. agencies and other international organizations to cooperate” on ending the conflict diamond trade.

Russia holds chairmanship of the Kimberley Process until the end of 2005 at which time it transfers to Botswana. Kudrin said, “We have made progress in tackling the main problem: banning diamonds mined in conflict zones.”

However, non-government organization (NGO) Global Witness released a statement on November 15 saying that the Kimberley Process is falling short in the fight against conflict diamonds. According to its own report, Global Witness contends that weak government controls are failing to stop diamonds from fuelling conflict. The report reiterates earlier claims from the Kimberley Process and government of Cote d’Ivoire that diamonds are being mined in rebel-held northern areas of the country and then smuggled through neighboring countries for polishing in international trade centers.

On October 25, the United States’ State Department released an updated list of 45 countries it considered to be part of its Clean Diamond Trade Act, which includes the Ivory Coast. At press time the State Department officials told Rapaport News they would investigate the status of rough trade. [Editor’s note: Should the State Department comment or update its list Rapaport News will report accordingly. Click to see the list.]

Global Witness also states that diamonds from Liberia are being certified by the Kimberley Process and exported from its neighboring countries. No one at the Kimberley Process office was available to comment on this claim at press time, although Liberia is not listed as a participating country.

“Despite repeated commitments by the diamond industry to combat conflict diamonds, some of its members still evade Kimberley Process controls while the rest turn a blind eye,” said Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness.

Shtyrov urged the industry to instruct local branches of customs and judicial authorities to refuse diamond imports from Cote d’Ivoire. Should an industry member learn of diamond imports originating from Cote d’Ivoire, Shtyrov said to contact his office immediately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.