Conflict Diamond Breakthrough

June 20, 2001

Conflict Diamond Breakthrough

Politicians and human rights activists have reached a compromise with diamond industry groups on the issue of conflict diamonds. A new conflict diamond bill, which has yet to be named, will be introduced tomorrow in the U.S. Senate by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Mike DeWine (R-OH).

U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) is said to have given the new bill his blessing. Human rights groups also pledged to support the bill, and Jewelers of America and the World Diamond Council announced they will back it too. This marks the first time politicians, non-governmental organizations and diamond industry representatives have united behind the precise wording of a bill designed to bring an end to the conflict diamond trade.

The diamond industry had, until recently, supported a similar bill introduced by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). A representative of Jewelers of America says the industry should be very thankful for Gregg's contribution to conflict diamond resolution. His bill was important in the most recent negotiation process. Gregg reportedly will continue to stand behind his own bill, but JA hopes he will eventually support the new bill as well.

Behind-the-scenes negotiations during the past few weeks ended in compromises by all groups. Among the compromises:

  • Diamonds will no longer be characterized as the principal source of problems in Africa
  • A provision in previous bills – that all diamond goods sold at retail should be labeled – will be eliminated
  • The certification of all diamond and diamond jewelry will occur at the trade level, but not at retail
  • A waiver provision set for six month intervals will be included for all countries that agree to abide by rules set by the new system. (It's recognized that not all countries can pass legislation immediately. If it's seen that an importing country is demonstrating good faith and complying by the rules and controls, President Bush would have the power to give the country a waiver to allow it to continue importing diamonds.)
It's expected that support by the NGOs will result in the cancellation of future planned demonstrations at jewelry stores. After the announcement tomorrow, industry representatives and NGOs will hold meetings to hammer out joint efforts, a JA spokesperson says.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G.