Conflict Diamonds: The Proactive Approach
Jewelers should applaud the World Diamond Congress for the steps it took in July to stop the flow of conflict diamonds (see p. 23). Diamond industry leaders reacted more rapidly to this crisis than many other industries in similar situations, say the human rights organizations that carefully monitored the congress as it met in Antwerp, Belgium.
The true test of the resolutions, however, lies in the future. How quickly will the industry lobby lawmakers in exporting and importing countries to enact the legislation the congress recommended? The new laws would mean careful monitoring of every diamond that passes across borders legitimately, preventing the formerly easy passage of conflict stones.
No one has illusions every rogue diamond will be caught. Even under careful World War II monitoring, diamonds were smuggled from this part of the world. Graham Greene, who wrote about West African wartime diamond smuggling in his 1948 novel The Heart of the Matter, describes methods still used today. One popular strategy: heating a diamond and then dropping it into a tin of lard.
New laws would make it more difficult to openly and wantonly trade blood stones. However, matters move slowly through the U.S. Congress and legislative bodies in other countries. In the short-term, criminals will continue passing illicit diamonds through exporting and importing offices that ask few questions. But you can do your part. A proactive approach will spread the word about diamond-funded wars and place your store in the vanguard of those fighting against horrific human rights abuses. Consumers do react positively to retailers who take a stand on moral issues they care about. The Body Shop, for example, won admiration from its customers for its profits-with-a-principle approach (Professional Jeweler, February 1998, p. 144). The chain took a stand against testing skin-care products on animals and won many loyal customers as a result.
Take an open stand against conflict diamonds in your advertising and advise your customers to write to their congressional representatives demanding legislation prohibiting U.S. imports of all but carefully vetted diamonds from countries that have passed similar legislation.
You might want the problem to just go away, but the ostrich approach is morally wrong as well as sheer folly. The number of articles on the role diamonds play in crises in Angola, Sierra Leone and other countries is mushrooming. And its not just newspapers and business magazines. Vanity Fair, often filled with glittering jewelry ads and read by many of your affluent customers, in July published a lengthy article with eyewitness reports of tragedies in Sierra Leone.
Jewelers of America President Matthew Runci said in Antwerp his organization is crafting consumer-friendly communications for members to use. If youre a member, contact JA for help. You also may want to access our Conflict Diamond Archive on the homepage of our Web site, www.professionaljeweler.com. There youll find brief background articles on the conflicts and countries involved, major reports issued by governments and human rights groups, and our concise Daily News articles covering this issue since last year. Do a quick read and youll be up to speed on all the issues.
Also write or call your legislators, stressing the moral imperative to act quickly. Senators and representatives can be called through the Capitol Hill operator at (202) 225-3121. Write to them in care of the U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510, or the House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.
by Peggy Jo Donahue