Retailers Visit Congressional Offices With Anti-Conflict Diamond Message

February 28, 2001

Retailers Visit Congressional Offices With Anti-Conflict Diamond Message

About 160 jewelers flooded Senate and Congressional offices on Capitol Hill Tuesday as part of Jewelers of America's effort to introduce legislation to end the flow of conflict diamonds. They visited legislative representatives from each of the 50 states.

The jewelers were in town attending a JA Affiliate Leadership conference and were briefed beforehand on the details of the conflict diamond legislation. The proposed bill was crafted by the World Diamond Council, of which JA is a member. It advocates U.S. cooperation on a ban on conflict diamonds using an international certification program.

The bill also has the support of diamond producing, processing and importing countries and human rights groups that met several weeks ago in Namibia as part of the Working Group on African Diamonds (also known as The Kimberley Process). Coordination of the details of the certification program began at that meeting. The group will meet every two months until the international program is in place. The U.S. representative attending that meeting was Anna Maria Borg, deputy assistant secretary at the State Department.

Jewelers fielded questions from congressional leaders as to how this bill differs from legislation slated to be introduced by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) within a week or so. Though the two proposals appear to be similar (see related story), jewelers told legislators the WDC bill is backed by the world community, which must cooperate for the conflict diamond ban to work. The WDC bill also has been coordinated with U.S. Customs Service practices and United Nations principles, which will make it easier to enforce.

Matthew Runci, president of JA and executive director of WDC, said he hopes the congressional visits would help interest legislators in becoming sponsors of the WDC bill on Capitol Hill. This is a necessary step to introduce any proposal into the U.S. Congress.

For more information on contacting U.S. legislators to support the WDC conflict diamond bill once it's introduced, contact Jewelers of America, New York City, (800) 223-0673. The group has developed talking points and other materials that jewelers around the country can use.

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