African Officials Criticize Human Rights Groups
Government and industry officials meet in Namibia to coordinate a worldwide diamond-certification program
A group of African government representatives issued a statement Feb. 16 saying a new conflict diamond campaign by Amnesty International and other human rights groups (see preceding story) is counterproductive and potentially damaging to the African countries that depend on legitimate diamond exports. [It] threatens to
undermine confidence in diamonds generally rather than focus on the specific problem before us.
The African group including representatives of the governments of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana also said its unhelpful for the human rights groups to regard a new legislative proposal by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) as a silver bullet that would resolve the problem. The conflict diamond problem is complex, the group said. Legislation by the United States must be carefully crafted and the views of the non-United States parties considered. In attempting to compel support for a single legislative proposal, these groups are creating needless confrontation. Cooperation among all interested parties would be much more helpful.
The Africans were meeting with other nations that produce, process and import diamonds, as well as the World Diamond Council, which represents the diamond and jewelry industry worldwide. The meeting, one of a series known as The Kimberley Process, was held in Windhoek, Namibia. Officials from 26 governments established a joint task force with the WDC to complete technical work on an international certification system for rough diamonds.
The Kimberley Process will continue at a meeting this month in Belgium, where members will examine existing import and export controls on rough diamonds.
After the Windhoek meeting, WDC Chairman Eli Izhakoff of New York City said, What has been accomplished here ... is very promising. We must also be aware that even when a certification system is established, our work will not be done. Lasting success depends on sound implementation and continued scrutiny. The industry is committed to this effort over the long run.
by Peggy Jo Donahue