Deadline on Conflict Diamonds

September 15, 2000

Deadline on Conflict Diamonds

Non-governmental organizations are holding the recently formed World Diamond Council to a feverish timetable. They want details of the conflict diamond resolution achieved at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp in July to be implemented within 30 days or picketing and demonstrations could result. WDC's nine-point resolution calls for legislation in exporting and importing countries, as well as a controlled infrastructure to track diamonds from their point of origin to their destination.

"The timetable is achievable and we'll probably have it in place and in a position for action," says Eli Izhakoff, WDC president, an organization formed to implement the resolutions. "The outcome has to be favorable because we are all in this for the same purpose: to see the world rid of conflict diamonds."

While the resolution in Antwerp, Belgium, highlighted the view of the two world diamond organizations (the International Diamond Manufacturers Association and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses) and De Beers, diamond-producing nations, bankers and governments involved in the diamond trade also must implement programs to control conflict diamonds. A variety of diamond-trade committees within WDC have formed to ensure the program is being followed and is accepted by governments.

Officials at Global Witness, one of the first human-rights groups to call attention to conflict diamonds, are watching with considerable interest. "There are several other NGOs with itchy feet," warns Alex Yearsley, of the London-based Global Witness. He says there might be isolated picketing or boycotting of retail jewelers this fall, but nothing widely organized. "We want to see more of a marriage of interests between governments and the trade," he says. Stalling would lead to deliberate, organized action by NGOs in early 2001 - in time for Valentine's Day - which would be aimed at the trade and governments.

On a positive note, Yearsley says the flow of diamonds from conflict areas has slowed. "We have seen a 30% drop in price from diamonds from those areas, though buying is still going on," he says. "There are basically two camps among diamond dealers, those who will have nothing to do with conflict diamonds and those who see a 30% drop as a bargain."

Yearsley says the next hurdle is the high-level government meetings between diamond-producing and -consuming nations in London in early October. Governments may ratify WDC's Antwerp resolutions and enact legislation to make trade in conflict diamonds punishable.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G.