October 9, 2002
Antwerp Conference Says Conflict Crisis is Over
The Antwerp Diamond Conference, held Oct. 7-8 in Antwerp, Belgium, brought together diamond and political leaders intent on informing the world the conflict diamond crisis is now over, reports the Associated Press. Speakers such as Peter Meeus, director of Antwerp's Diamond High Council, De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer and Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore all spoke about conflict diamonds in the past tense. "We are now in the post-conflict diamond era," said Meeus. "This is the end of a two-and-a-half-year period of negative publicity around conflict diamonds," said Gore.
The conference took place just three weeks before the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association will hold the 30th World Diamond Congress in London on Oct. 27-29, and four weeks before world governments and diamond leaders taking part in the Kimberley Process meet on Nov. 4-5 in Interlaken, Switzerland, to plan final enactment of Kimberley's worldwide certification system to bar illegally traded diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond stream. The Kimberley certification system is scheduled to go into effect early in 2003.
The U.S. special negotiator for conflict diamonds, J.D. Bindenagel, recently announced that the U.S. government will go to the Interlaken meeting ready to announce the U.S. can begin enforcing the Kimberley system in January, 2003. The U.S. Customs Department will bar any diamonds that don't come from Kimberley-participating countries, a situation made possible by post-Sept. 11 emergency powers granted to the government (U.S. Can Enforce Kimberley Rules Without Legislation).
At the Antwerp conference, participants also announced an international diamond relief fund to help impoverished diamond-producing countries improve living standards. Botswana received the initial $254,000 from the fund, said the Rapaport Report. Festus Mogae, president of Botswana, accepted the donation at a conference dinner.
by Peggy Jo Donahue