(Rapaport…February 8, 2006) The revelation of blood diamonds led to sweeping changes across the diamond industry. Horrors from Sierra Leone and other nations in Africa, where diamonds were used to fuel war and terrorism, “led to an unprecedented mobilization by the international community to confront the challenge of conflict diamonds, in addition to the effective intervention by the United Nations and British forces to put an end to the conflict in Sierra Leone,” according to a co-authored letter by Kago G. Moshashane (Kimberley Process chair) and Eli Izhakoff (World Diamond Council chair.)
[The full letter follows this brief.]
At issue is the upcoming Warner Brothers movie (currently being filmed on the coast of South Africa) called The Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Moshashane and Izhakoff addressed industry progress and concerns in a letter to the film’s director Edward Zwick, on February 8. The Blood Diamond is under contact with Warner Brothers Pictures and set for release in 2007.
In their letter, Izhakoff and Moshashane express concern that The Blood Diamond will neglect industry progress to end conflict diamonds, and present a distorted picture of the diamond industry.
The letter in full:
Dear Mr. Zwick:
1. We are writing to you regarding the production of the film “Blood Diamonds,” which, we understand will star Mr. Leonardo Di Caprio and is scheduled to go into production this year. Our understanding is that the film is focused on the events in Sierra Leone during the height of the civil conflict in 1999, when the now-defunct rebel group – the Revolutionary United Front – waged a deadly war, prolonged by the exploitation and sale of rough diamonds. We believe that this is a story that must be told – but it’s not the whole story.
2. As you will be aware, the production of a film on the subject of conflict diamonds has already attracted significant attention within many of the countries that rely on revenue from diamond production for their economic development. At the initiative of African diamond-producing countries, the subject was raised at the recent annual Plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process, held in Moscow on November 15-17 2005, which brought together representatives from the governments of diamond-producing and trading countries, the diamond industry and civil society. Participants at the meeting welcomed the production of the film, and stressed that the story of conflict diamonds is an important one that needs to be told. Conflict diamonds have in the past caused great pain and suffering in a number of countries in Africa, and all stakeholders in the Kimberley Process are determined that revenues from diamonds should never again be used to finance armed conflict and undermine the security of innocent civilians and their livelihoods.
3. However, there was an equally strong feeling among the governments and industry bodies represented at the Moscow Plenary meeting that it would be a great pity if a movie as important as the one you are now producing told only a part of the story – and suggested that the situation in Sierra Leone today, and indeed in other diamond-producing countries, had remained unchanged. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The horrors of the war in Sierra Leone and in other diamond-fuelled conflicts in Africa led to an unprecedented mobilization by the international community to confront the challenge of conflict diamonds, in addition to the effective intervention by UN and British forces to put an end to the conflict in Sierra Leone as such.
4. In 1999, in support of initiatives to bring an end to the trade in conflict diamonds, Nelson Mandela pointed out that “the diamond industry is vital to the Southern African economy. Rather than boycotts being instituted, it is preferable that through our own initiative the industry takes a progressive stance on human rights issues.” With the strong leadership of South Africa, governments, the diamond industry and non-governmental NGOs came together in May 2000 to start the Kimberley Process, which is mandated by the UN General Assembly and endorsed by the Security Council.
Thanks to the collective membership of the Kimberley Process that successfully rose to the challenge, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) for rough diamonds has been operational since January 1, 2003. Sixty-nine diamond-producing and trading countries (including the 25 European Community Member States), representing virtually all the global production of and trade in rough diamonds, are now subject to the stringent requirements of the Scheme. Under the KPCS, all international shipments of rough diamonds have to be accompanied by a certificate guaranteeing that the diamonds in the shipment are conflict-free, and governments in all participating countries have to put in place mechanisms to exclude illicit diamonds from the trade. The scheme has had a major and positive impact on conflict-diamonds affected countries – such as Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – as the level of rough diamonds exports channeled through legitimate government institutions has increased substan ially. Rough diamond exports certified by the Sierra Leonean government, for instance, increased from US$ 10 million in 2000 to US$ 141.94 million in 2005.
5. Over the course of the past three years, the effectiveness of the Scheme has been progressively enhanced throughout the Kimberley Process’s Participants, with the implementation of an extensive system for monitoring of implementation, compulsory statistical reporting, and mechanisms for dealing with serious cases of non-compliance with the Scheme. Indeed, in 2005 a Kimberley Process monitoring team visited Sierra Leone, and was able to note the huge progress made by the Sierra Leone government towards ensuring that all diamonds mined are exported through legitimate channels and benefit the development of the country as a whole.
6. Challenges remain, of course, and rebuilding the countries ravaged by conflict diamonds in the past, giving them the means to control their diamond wealth effectively, remains foremost among them. It is a challenge that the Kimberley Process is confronting head-on, together with other international organizations, donors and NGOs. Crucially, a genuine international effort to tackle the very real problem portrayed in your movie is under way, and judging by the evidence, that effort has had a very substantial impact. Indeed, the impact of the KPCS has been such that it is now being studied as a possible model for certification schemes to cover other potential ‘conflict commodities’.
7. In short, there is a strong feeling on the part of the Kimberley Process (which Botswana has the honor of chairing this year) that the story would be incomplete without the message of hope contained in the unprecedented international effort to eliminate conflict diamonds. Indeed, it is worth underlining the extent to which many African countries, Sierra Leone included, and the livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and elsewhere, depend on the production, trade in and polishing of diamonds. Rough diamonds represent the main source of revenue for many African diamond-producing countries, and suggesting that the situation in those countries today is as it was in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s would risk entailing grave economic consequences for many of them. In a country such as my own, revenues generated from the export of rough diamonds fund essential government services such as health, education and development programs. There is a real risk of associating diamonds with African conflicts permanently and undermining consumer confidence in the product unintentionally.
8. In this context, We should like to ask, on behalf of the Kimberley Process, whether it would not be appropriate for the “Blood Diamonds” film to provide some acknowledgment of the huge changes that have occurred in the diamond trade – and in countries affected by conflict diamonds in particular – since 1999. We believe this could be accomplished by giving serious consideration to including a written broadcast message at the end of the film, and in accompanying promotional literature. We would like to suggest that it includes the following language:
“The conflict in Sierra Leone ended in January 2002. This was followed by free and democratic elections and today, virtually all global trade in rough diamonds is now conducted through the Kimberley Process – an international diamond watchdog bringing together governments, industry and civil society. Sierra Leone is now using its diamond wealth to help build a secure future for all its people.”
9. We would be very pleased to work with you further on the proposed language, and to provide background information that may be of use to you in the context of production, either on the nature of the conflict diamond problem or on the international response to it. In the meantime, We attach a number of recent reports and documents that give an overview of what has been accomplished to date in the Kimberley Process.
10. We look forward to hearing from you, and remain at your disposal to assist with whatever information may be of use to you on a matter that is of great importance to diamond-producing, trading and polishing countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Kago G. Moshashane
Chairman of the Kimberley Process
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
World Diamond Council
CC: Mr. Kofi Annan, Mr. Nelson Mandela, (Head of Warner Bros.), (Warner
Bros. lawyers), Mr. Leonardo Di Caprio, (Di Caprio’s publicist) Governments
of: Angola, Armenia Australia, Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada,
Central African Republic, People’s Republic of China, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, European Community, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana,
India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of
Lao, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, Norway, Romania,
Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka,
Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United
States of America, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, World Diamond Council and
Partnership Africa Canada/Global Witness.