Diamond Industry, Government Still Not Preventing Import of Real 'Blood Diamonds'

World Vision
December 7, 2006

Five years ago, World Vision and other humanitarian organizations urged diamond wholesalers and retailers to stop the sale of so-called "conflict diamonds" — stones mined illegally and sold to fuel wars in Africa.

Five years later, despite legislation and promises of oversight by the diamond industry and U.S. government, diamond companies still don't do enough to prevent the stones from being used to purchase weapons, fuel wars and create havoc in countries where most people live on less than $1 a day.

"Diamonds are a $60 billion a year business, and even if only one percent of the retail market includes gems that fuel conflicts in African nations, that's $600 million worth of cheap assault rifles and rocket launchers killing thousands of people every year," says Rory E. Anderson, an expert on the illegal diamond trade with the Christian aid agency World Vision. "It's unconscionable." Anderson recently attended a private screening of the new film, "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which opens Friday, December 8, nationwide, and will again bring the illegal, unethical and immoral diamond trade to the public's attention.

"In Sierra Leone, where 'Blood Diamond' is set, the conflict ended years ago, and diamonds are coming under legitimate control," says Anderson. "But there are still countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where diamonds and other resources are being sold illegally, and diamond warlords use proceeds to fund rebel conflicts."

The solution to the problem, according to World Vision, is not a diamond boycott, but rather consumer pressure where the industry will feel it most: at the jewelry store and in Congress. "The legitimate diamond industry in countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia provide livelihood and vital public services," said Anderson. "We don't want to hurt their efforts in the process of stopping the illicit trade elsewhere."

Before buying diamonds, Anderson says, consumers should ask retailers about their policies on "blood diamonds" and whether they can certify their diamonds are not funding conflict. If such certification cannot be presented, inquire about other retailers who can. "We want to remind the public, especially during the holiday season, to ask their jeweler about the '4 C's' in diamond buying — carat, cut, clarity and conflict," she says. "We also urge people to contact their members of Congress and ask why more is not being done to prevent the import of 'blood diamonds.' "

Americans buy two-thirds of the diamonds on the global market, and according to a 2004 study by Amnesty International and Global Witness, 58 percent of diamond retailers in the U.S. and U.K. had no policy on conflict diamonds.

Additional background: Beginning in 2000, World Vision and more than 150 organizations urged the diamond industry to develop a system to ensure that all diamonds in the global market were no longer funding conflict and human rights abuses. That effort included a 2001 television spot airing during the season finale of "The West Wing," with actor Martin Sheen urging consumers to ask jewelers about "conflict-free" diamonds. Negotiations with the diamond industry lobbyists culminated two forms of regulation: the international Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the U.S. Clean Diamonds Trade Act.

The Kimberley Process is an international system that certifies unpolished or "rough" diamonds that come from sources not fueling conflict. However, the Process only covers stones that have not yet been cut. This "mine-to-factory" coverage allows rebels and other groups to make minor changes to the stones that easily exempt them from the Kimberley Process. Civil society organizations are asking for certification of the entire process, tracing diamonds "from mine to finger."

The Clean Diamond Trade Act, requires all diamonds entering the United States to bear Kimberley Process certification. However, the government has delegated oversight of the Process to the diamond industry. Enforcement by the Department of Commerce, mandated in the law, has fallen far short of expectations and must be fully implemented.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press

See the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on conflict diamonds.

More Information on the Security Council
More NGO Opinions and Initiatives on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
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