Izhakoff Urges Action on Crime in the Marange Fields

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Press Release, February 24, 2010: In a keynote speech delivered at the 2010 CIBJO Congress in Munich, Germany, Eli Izhakoff, the chairman of the World Diamond Council (WDC), urged decisive action to end the intolerable situation in the Marange diamond fields of Zimbabwe. Izhakoff said that the Kimberley Process (KP) remains the best vehicle to combat those carrying out criminal acts in the region. The following is the full text of his address:

It is my honor to join you once again at this important meeting of the international gem and jewelry industry. Our industry is facing difficult times. They call for extraordinary measures to maintain and grow the business we all love and the industry that brings economic development and employment to so many people worldwide.

My subject today is the particular challenge faced by the diamond producing industry by the production of diamonds in the Marange region of Zimbabwe, and in particular the way in which this is being addressed by the KP.

We are all too familiar with the horrific reports that have come out of Zimbabwe pertaining to the conditions of the population in the Marange diamond fields. The allegations of murder, rape, assaults and human abuse in communities which live alongside these diamond fields are appalling.

The world’s diamond and jewelry community cannot stand idly by when these allegations are made. The affected population are members of our own family. We must act to protect their interests.

That is why the WDC committed to the KP from the beginning. The KP was and still is the best chance we have to ensure that those who benefit from trade in rough diamonds are people who act ethically, legitimately and within the bounds of civilized society. The system developed by the KP and the WDC’s System of Warranties create the conditions that are necessary if we are to expose those who act outside the legitimate stream of commerce. 

Those people who are committing atrocities in Marange are being exposed to the world as criminals by the members of the KP — which includes civil society, governments and our industry.

Despite our frustration over the pace of the decision-making process, the KP is taking action to shine a bright light on the allegedly criminal activities and provide a basis on which international institutions can act to stop the violence, to prosecute those accused of illegal acts and to develop Marange as a diamond resource that works for the benefit of the local community.

A KP monitor has been appointed. He will visit Zimbabwe every month with broad authority to examine every aspect of KP compliance in the region and will be required to report to the KP about the current conditions in Marange. A detailed joint work plan was developed by the KP, which requires Zimbabwe to take proactive steps to end the criminal acts in Marange, and to bring this diamond producing area into the 21st century for the benefit of its citizens.

There is no other international institution doing more to address the situation in Marange, but this is not enough.

KP and WDC cannot meet its goals in Zimbabwe without strong support. We need to work with both government and civil society to ensure that everyone in Marange is safe, that diamond production helps the largest possible number of local citizens and that criminals are brought to justice. Only then can the future of Zimbabwe’s entire diamond industry be ensured as a vehicle that works for the benefit of all the citizens of Zimbabwe. This is why the WDC has committed so much of its resources to this challenge.

This is what we believe needs to be done in order to improve the KP’s system of operation. I would note that we have being saying these things for a long time already, but I will reiterate them once again.
•       The KP system needs improving and the WDC has been engaged in reviewing and upgrading the system from the very beginning. The WDC has called upon the KP to have a professional team to ensure efficient administration.
•       We also have called on the KP to change its system of voting, so that one participant cannot block progress for undisclosed reasons.
•       We have called upon the KP to reform its rules on the publication of internal reports, noting that there ought to be full transparency of all the actions and conclusions reached by the KP.
•       We have repeatedly urged governments to act to strengthen their level of oversight and compliance with KP requirements, so that illegal smugglers will be exposed and then prosecuted by the authorities.

The WDC, along with International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and other organizations, have called upon their members to refrain from dealing in diamonds from Marange. Here at CIBJO, we call upon members of national associations to report to the appropriate authorities those diamond dealers who are known to be trading in these diamonds.

The WDC is participating in a project within the KP to improve communications and information-gathering for the purpose of improving law enforcement and apprehending criminals who violate existing laws that prevent smuggling.

The KP is our best possible tool to engage on these issues in an effective and efficient manner, and WDC is committed to continuing the engagement. We will not stop until all the challenges are met and the millions who are gainfully employed in diamond production today can continue to be assured of their place in the industry.

I cannot state this more strongly. To trade in diamonds from Marange today is, in effect, the same as supporting acts of violence against civilian populations. Such a situation cannot be tolerated by people of good will and ethical purpose.

Our product is pure, as are the intentions of the people who bring our product to the public. Consumers must trust our industry, and it is the maintenance of this trust that is the main goal of the WDC. We will continue to work hard to earn that trust as we go forward in this very complicated and challenging 21st century.

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CIBJO is the international jewelry confederation of national trade organizations. CIBJO’s purpose is to encourage harmonization, promote international cooperation in the jewelry industry and to consider issues which concern the trade worldwide. CIBJO’s chief mission is to protect consumer confidence in the industry. Click here to go to the CIBJO website for more information.


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