Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) introduced the Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001, S. 787, yesterday in the U.S. Senate. It's the second conflict diamond bill introduced in Congress this year. The other is U.S. Rep. Tony Hall's (D-OH) Clean Diamonds Act (H.R. 918), which was introduced March 7. Both bills seek to ban conflict diamonds from the U.S. and call for the creation of an international certification program to stop the trade in conflict diamonds worldwide.
Gregg's bill was immediately endorsed by Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America. "Senator Judd Gregg has made a major contribution to the campaign against the illegal and immoral trade in conflict diamonds by introducing the Conflict Diamonds Act of 2001," Runci says. "His bill will create a potent mechanism for assuring that diamonds imported by the United States are free of taint. It will also foster a global regulatory system to protect the international supply chain.
"The Gregg bill deserves the vigorous support of all segments of the diamond industry, here and abroad. We are asking the more than 10,000 members of Jewelers of America, as well as related associations, to work hard for the prompt passage of the [act]," he says.
"Senator Gregg's bill builds on the proposals of the World Diamond Council, created by the industry last year for the express purpose of eliminating conflict diamonds," says Runci, who also serves as executive director of the council. "Thanks to his efforts, Congress now has before it a bill that is efficient, enforceable and consistent with efforts by the United Nations and other international organizations that are also striving to eliminate conflict diamonds."
Runci's comments come just two weeks after JA asked its members not to support a human rights organization's campaign to pass Hall's House bill. JA disagreed with some provisions of the Hall bill (see related article) and asked its members to wait for new legislation. Gregg's bill was the legislation JA anticipated.
Gregg's bill is stricter than the original WDC legislative proposal because it includes diamond jewelry in the ban on conflict diamonds. This also makes it more compatible with Hall's bill and silences criticism that the WDC legislative proposal omitted diamond jewelry.
The two bills describe an almost identical international certification program, modeled after the program endorsed by the U.N. and crafted by the WDC and the Working Group on African Diamonds (also known as the Kimberley Process).
Gregg's bill, however, doesn't call for a jewelry and diamond labeling system for consumers, such as the one Hall's bill includes. Industry leaders have sharply criticized such a "tag" system for potentially adding undue expense and negativity to every diamond purchase.
Gregg's bill also acknowledges the work of the WDC and the Working Group on African Diamonds in crafting the international certification program. Hall's bill, while praising the Working Group, omitted mention of the WDC. Industry leaders feared the efforts it had undertaken to stop the flow of conflict diamonds would be overlooked if Hall's bill was passed.
More analysis of the bill will be forthcoming, as industry leaders react to it in the coming weeks.
- by Peggy Jo Donahue