By Martin Rapaport
As expected the subject of Conflict Diamonds dominated the meetings of the World Diamond Congress (WDC) in Antwerp, Belgium in July. The WDC, a unique forum that meets every four years, is organized by the two major international organizations of the diamond industry – The International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB).
The meetings in Antwerp were extremely well attended and included government representatives of the diamond mining, manufacturing and consuming countries, De Beers, and a number of important nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) including Global Witness, Amnesty International, and World Vision. A number of important speakers including presidents of international diamond organizations, British Foreign Minister Peter Hain, United Nations representative Robert Fowler, U.S. Congressman Tony Hall, Gary Ralfe and Nicky Oppenheimer of De Beers addressed the Congress. (See www.diamonds.net for full text of many of the speeches.)
The forum provided a unique opportunity for all organizations in the international diamond trade to discuss and debate the issue of Conflict Diamonds. There was great concern that the issue should not be allowed to disturb the legitimate trade in diamonds and the significant benefit the diamond trade provides to diamond producing and manufacturing countries. There was also a clear consensus that the diamond industry needed to take clear and concrete steps to ensure that Conflict Diamonds are excluded from the legitimate diamond distribution system.
To its great credit, the World Diamond Congress passed a unanimous resolution that calls for the implementation of a strict regime of controls over the import and export of rough diamonds that will effectively exclude conflict diamonds from the legitimate diamond distribution pipeline. This resolution initially adopted by IDMA with the strong support of president Sean Cohen, and then improved and approved by the WFDB, lays the cornerstone for industry compliance with UN embargos of conflict diamonds. Furthermore, it sets a very high standard of corporate moral and ethical responsibility for the international diamond trade.
Truth be told, the international diamond industry has acted in a most responsible manner and deserves the accolades of the international community for doing its part in addressing the most difficult problem of Conflict Diamonds. Needless to say, governments and NGO’s were highly supportive of the resolution.
While the diamond industry has taken this most critical first step in resolving the issue of Conflict Diamonds, we must point out that it will be extremely important for governments, NGO’s and the trade to cooperate and ensure that the resolutions are enforced in the real world. For its part, the diamond industry must follow up on the resolution by cooperating with governments to ensure that conflict diamonds and those that deal with conflict diamonds are excluded from the legitimate diamond trade.
It is important to note that the resolution calls on governments to implement strict import and export controls over the flow of rough diamonds. Such controls by customs officers of diamond producing and manufacturing countries are clearly beyond the legal power of the diamond industry. For the WDC resolution to be effective, governments and international agencies will have to do their part by enabling regulations and encouraging international organizations such as the United Nations Security Council to enact resolutions which request governments to implement international controls over the flow of rough diamonds. Furthermore, governments in diamond consuming nations should be encouraged to enact legislation that requires all imports of polished diamonds to originate from countries that have implemented rough controls.
The WFDB resolution approving an SI3 grade and election results will be covered in the next issue of RDR.