Professional Jeweler Archive: DDC's Conflict Diamond Solution

August 2000


DDC's Conflict Diamond Solution

Eli Haas outlines a proposal to Congress to allow legitimate diamonds from conflict nations to come to the U.S. directly

Strategists at the Diamond Dealers Club of New York City feel it’s not a diamond’s fault that rebels in some African countries use this natural resource (and others, such as petroleum), to fund abhorrent civil wars. But they also know there’s something deeply wrong with a system of diamond distribution that enables so much diamond money to be funneled into the purchase of weapons used in civil wars.

Bearing both of these thoughts in mind, DDC President Eli Haas proposed a solution to Congress in early May designed to promote stability, accountability and transparency in diamond trading. He asked: Why not a direct relationship between African diamond mining nations and the U.S. diamond-cutting industry? “This means the U.S. diamond industry would be able to deal on a business-to-business basis with African diamond-producing nations to purchase stones that have been licensed for export by legitimate governments,” he said. “The establishment of a direct pipeline would play a significant role in overcoming the shortage of rough diamonds we experience here. This would revitalize our cutting and polishing industry.”

Haas told Professional Jeweler he could not elaborate on details of the proposal because they were in the early planning stages. “We have not gotten that far,” he said, “but the idea has been enthusiastically received by all levels of the U.S. government, including the State Department, Congress and even the Customs Service.

“The United States has direct channels with foreign governments – much like other countries do. And other governments are actively involved in facilitating trading channels for their countries’ businesses.” Haas says the certificate system now in place isn’t working because it can be misused in so many ways. “Even U.N. Canadian Ambassador Fowler has agreed it is not working.”

The question arises whether establishing a direct channel for diamonds – sanctioned and supported by the U.S. – would deliver another blow to De Beers’ channel of distribution? Haas thinks not. “I have sent a copy of my statement to De Beers and I must say we have a very agreeable relationship. [De Beers’] interest is in getting the conflicts resolved as well.”

The statement was drafted by Haas, Treasurer Mayer Herz and Managing Director Martin Hochbaum.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Representatives of the Diamond Dealers Club of New York City meet with government officials to discuss diamond mining in Sierra Leone, Angola and other conflict areas. From left, Bryan Dalton, State Department desk officer for Sierra Leone; Eli Haas, DDC president; Ambassador Howard Jeter; and Mayer Herz, DDC treasurer.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications