Conflict Diamonds: It's Lobbying Time
Through most of the conflict diamond crisis, retail jewelers have felt helpless and frustrated. A retailer in Peoria couldnt force an end to protracted conflicts in Africa or stop rebels from committing atrocities featured on TV in horrifying detail. But now U.S. jewelers can play an important role by lobbying for passage of legislation in Congress. If voted into law, House bill 2722 and Senate bill 1084 would:
1. Ban conflict diamonds from entering the U.S.
2. Require diamond-mining and -cutting countries to quickly approve an international certification system to stop conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply. This system would choke off rebels easy access to the money diamonds bring.
The certification system would require mining countries to seal legitimate diamonds in tamper-proof containers and issue accompanying papers certifying their clean origin. Countries importing rough diamonds would be allowed to accept only diamonds carrying this certification. All countries producing diamond jewelry could buy polished diamonds only from countries with such a certification system in place. A worldwide computerized tracking system would back up the plan.
The U.S. legislation would force slow-acting governments of mining, cutting and jewelry-producing countries to put the system in place quickly or lose their ability to export diamonds or diamond jewelry into the U.S., the worlds largest diamond buyer. Our clout as a nation on this issue is enormous. The House and Senate versions of the legislation (see www.professionaljeweler.coms Conflict Diamond Archive for copies of both bills) are fully endorsed by the jewelry and diamond industry. They also have the support of a 100-group coalition of human rights organizations and congressional advocates such as U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH), who has lobbied for a conflict diamond ban for two years.
Aside from the humanitarian reasons for supporting this legislation, once the certification system is in place, you will be able to guarantee all new diamonds entering your store are conflict-free. As it stands now, you cant make such assurances because conflict diamonds have been freely mixed with legitimate ones for years.
Jewelers of America, an active member of the World Diamond Council, a key architect of the U.S. legislation and the international certification system, has prepared three sample letters and a telephone tip sheet to aid you in quickly getting a call or letter to legislators. For copies, contact JA at (800) 223-0673 or www.jewelers.org or visit our Web site at www.professionaljeweler.com and click on the Conflict Diamond Archive.
Dont know who represents you in Congress? Check your telephone books government pages or visit www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. Enter your ZIP code and the representatives name will appear.
- For phone calls, dial the Capitol Hill Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representatives offices.
- For letters, write to your representatives at U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510, or House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.
- For e-mail, use www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
Please do it today while Congress is still in session. Your window of opportunity is short the next four weeks are key.
Peggy Jo Donahue