U.N. General Assembly Supports Kimberley

April 16, 2003

U.N. General Assembly Supports Kimberley

The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in support of the Kimberley global diamond certification process on April 15. The certification system was created to prevent rebels in war-torn African countries from profiting from diamonds. Kimberley Process members, including all major diamond producing and manufacturing countries, give export-approval certificates to rough diamonds mined legitimately and bar diamonds from countries not part of the process.

Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's representative to the U.N., introduced the draft resolution, saying it is important to acknowledge the road taken had not been easy. Many countries supported the Kimberley Process despite reservations, he said. "The thing that united them was the view that the resolution had contributed to peace and security in the countries where people had lost their lives because of conflict diamonds," he said.

Rebel groups and warlords have tarnished the image of the diamond industry in Africa, mostly as a result of the illicit diamond trade, Botswana's U.N. representative Alfred Dube told the General Assembly. Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds by value and the economy most dependent on trade in rough diamonds, Dube said.

The national treasuries of Botswana and other legitimate diamond-producing African countries receive little or nothing from the illegal diamond trade, Dube said, and associated human rights violations shocked the world. "The horrific scenes of men, women and children hacked to death or with their limbs amputated by drug-crazed rebels were regularly aired on television," Dube said. "That had rightly prompted human rights groups and other activists to campaign against the diamond trade." But if a consumer boycott had succeeded, said Dube, Botswana would have "suffered immeasurably" because the diamond industry contributes one-third of the country's gross domestic product, more than half the public revenues, and 80% of its export earnings.

In other diamond news, the U.S. Senate and House agreed on a final Clean Diamonds Act on April 11, and the bill has been sent to President Bush for signature. The Act finally will give the U.S. Customs Service the authority to ban non-Kimberley Process-certified diamonds from entering the country. Though the Kimberley Process Certification program went into effect worldwide Jan. 1, U.S. Customs has been prevented from using it on imports of rough diamonds, because there was no law authorizing it.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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