U.S. Government Supports Jewelers On Conflict Issue

February 27, 2001

U.S. Government Supports Jewelers On Conflict Issue

"We want to break the deadly link between conflict and diamonds. We also want to maintain and protect the legitimate diamond industry and trade," said Anna Maria Borg, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department. Borg, who is working on the conflict diamond issue for the U.S. government, said those were America's two principal objectives. She addressed jewelers attending Jeweler of America's yearly affiliate conference in Washington, DC, last night, prior to the group's lobbying effort on Capitol Hill today. The jewelers will visit congressional representatives from all 50 states to assert the industry's position on the conflict diamond issue and seek legislative sponsors for the World Diamond Council's draft bill to ban conflict diamonds.

Borg, recently returned from The Kimberley Process conference in Windhoek, Namibia, said much progress was made in providing a roadmap to achieve those two objectives by the end of 2001. She said all parties involved in the issue, including producing and importing countries, the World Diamond Council and non-government organizations, will meet every two months until their goals are achieved. She praised the diamond and jewelry industry for taking an important lead on the issue and said such participation by industry insiders was needed to craft a system that is both practical and workable for all involved.

After her speech, Borg said it was probably time to get legislative representatives involved in The Kimberley Process. Until now, most government representatives have been from the executive branch. But a brewing clash between Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) and the industry may speed the inclusion of legislators. Hall is crafting a rival bill to ban conflict diamonds that he has said is better than the WDC's draft legislation approved by all parties at Windhoek. Yet the two bills, at least in draft form, are similar, suggesting there is much common ground.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G. and Peggy Jo Donahue