(Rapaport…June 23, 2000)
Antwerp Diamond Bourse Press Release:
BELGIUM LEADS WAR AGAINST “CONFLICT DIAMONDS”, CALLS FOR OPEN DEBATE ON DIAMONDS AND AFRICA
Reviewing the issue of so-called “Conflict Diamonds” and the steps taken by various diamond industry bodies and organizations, including the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, De Beers, the Israel Diamond Exchange and various diamond banks, the ANTWERP DIAMOND BOURSE notes the following:
Belgium’s critical concern today is not just for the Belgian diamond industry, but for the viability and continued prosperity of the global diamond trade which underpins an important number of African and other emerging market economies, provides substantial direct and indirect employment for well over 1.25 million people in these countries and supports a world-wide manufacturing, distribution and retailing industry.
The Antwerp Diamond Bourse is pleased to see that initiatives taken by the Antwerp diamond industry, led by the HRD (Diamond High Council) in conjunction with the Belgian Government, are now being followed and acted on by other centers including Israel.
Following Antwerp’s call to the 22 Diamond Bourses world-wide on the 7th of June to implement sanctions against any diamond dealers trading in conflict diamonds, we note Israel’s following of Antwerp’s lead and acknowledge its government and industry’s efforts to step up the policing of its diamond industry. We urge Israel to continue to ensure that it will not become a conduit for conflict diamonds.
We note that since the issue of conflict diamonds and UN sanctions has arisen, Antwerp’s diamond trade has instituted the following actions:
*The HRD (Diamond High Council) has re-organised its operations with a view to achieving optimal standards of rough diamond processing, shipment handling and monitoring of goods.
*The HRD has participated in discussions with the Ambassador Fowler of the United Nations, with the British Foreign Office and with various NGO’s with a view to securing 100 percent compliance and zero-tolerance for the traffic in conflict diamonds. The HRD’s efforts on behalf of the Antwerp diamond industry continue and Antwerp’s diamond industry will continue to hold discussions with all parties in order to maintain a vigilant scrutiny of all possible conflict diamonds coming to the market.
* The HRD will imminently implement stringent regulations which will allow it to refuse entry to insufficiently or erroneously documented rough diamonds.
* The Antwerp diamond banks have already advised their clients that they would impose a stringent application of UN Resolution 1173. As such, and in accordance with Belgian banking law, any infraction would be considered as a breach of the law and of contract and consequently lead to extremely severe measures. In addition, a written undertaking between the banks and their clients is presently in preparation with an explicit commitment not to purchase or trade in diamonds that originate from conflict areas. We urge the Israeli Government and the Israeli Diamond Bourse to ensure that Israeli diamond banks follow suit and adhere to the stringent policy applied by Antwerp’s diamond banks.
* The HRD, along with reviewing and strengthening its procedures for inspection of goods, will continuously review all possible technologies and systems improvements to ensure accurate and efficient monitoring and processing of rough diamonds.
* Antwerp’s independent expertise in managing imports of diamonds and its well-established statistical documentation of diamond flows, already available to Africa, are open to other principal centres, governments and institutions for the up-grading of their documentation and processes. Antwerp sets the world standard in diamond documentation and shipping processing and will willingly share this with concerned authorities.
Antwerp’s lead earlier this month in requesting all international Bourses to implement the strictest regulations in connection with conflict diamonds, along with our call for the setting up of an International Diamond Council and the drafting of a rigorous Code of Conduct to represent and govern the global diamond industry, has already been positively responded to by a number of Bourses and mining companies, world-wide. This proposal will be energetically followed up at the forthcoming July World Diamond Congress in Antwerp.
The Antwerp Diamond Bourse’s proposed Code of Conduct for the diamond industry will be circulated to the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, leading mining companies and the producer countries, in advance of the Congress, for comment and final drafting.
In addition, the Antwerp Diamond Bourse now proposes that any individual or company with any link, history or activity in the arms trade, be permanently barred from the diamond industry. This exclusion from the diamond industry of any arms interests to include any form of association or business combination between a diamond company and any other entity or person engaged, directly or indirectly, in the procurement or supply of arms. In this way we seek to eliminate any association of arms dealing with the diamonds industry.
A recommendation will be made to all producer countries that diamonds channelled through any such business combination will be banned from the world industry. We hope that our colleagues in the other cutting centres will immediately endorse this proposal.
We deeply regret the inappropriate use of the label “conflict diamonds” which risks tainting the 96 percent of legitimate rough diamond mining and trading that characterises the global diamond industry. We trust that NGO’s and other observers will respect the efforts made by the legitimate diamond industry to eradicate trade in diamonds emanating from war zones. It is we feel, important to remember that diamond revenue will be a key engine of growth for Sierra Leone, Angola and the DRC, when peace returns. Diamonds are not the source of conflict. Poor governance, weak structures, corruption, and legacy problems of fragile post-colonial states, are the source of conflict.
Antwerp’s diamond institutions and entrepreneurs, which have operated an open-door and open-dialogue policy since the onset of this problem, continue to be available to Governments, the UN, the media, NGO’s, and all those with a serious agenda and a genuine solution-driven concern for Africa and its problems.
The horrifying breakdown of state structures in Africa with the accompanying loss of human life and social degradation is a matter of concern to all responsible people. Developing appropriate and effective solutions to Africa’s problems however, can only be successful if the real core of the conflicts are understood and tackled.
The diamond industry cannot accept the responsibility of functioning as a surrogate multi-lateral responsible for African problems of state. Diamonds must not become a convenient scapegoat that dazzles and distorts the perspectives of policy-makers and western governments with a responsibility and commitment towards Africa.
Reporting, commenting and policy-making on Africa, particularly in times of crisis and the horrifying marginalisation of most of that continent, cries out for a determinedly objective diagnostic of the problems of Africa. If NGO’s and others have managed to ignore the realpolitik of oil, special interests and regional influence-seeking, they at least owe it to their mandates and their consciences not to play games of brinkmanship with the legitimate building blocks of future African development.
DIAMONDS ARE NOT THE SOURCE OF CONFLICT
More importantly, NGO’s and international organisations, must be RESPONSIVE WITH RESPONSIBILITY, and have the courage and honesty to call the problems of war-torn Africa what they are- the legacy of poor governance, corrupt and weak state structures, ambiguous leadership and the political dissonance of post-colonial Africa.
Where good government and strong structures are in place, diamonds drive development. In Botswana, which has economic growth of 9 percent a year and US$6.5 billion in diamond-generated reserves, diamonds account for 75 percent of foreign exchange earnings, 65 percent of government revenue and 33 percent of GDP. In Namibia diamonds account for 40 percent of foreign exchange revenue and are the largest employer. The Indian diamond industry employs over 800,000 people and for 3 decades has been a driving force in the Indian economy. In South Africa and Russia diamonds are a transparent and accountable dynamo of employment and earnings. It was diamond revenue which triggered the transformation of South Africa’s impoverished 19th century skeletal economic infrastructure into the 20th century powerhouse of Africa.