Diamond Development Initiative Formed

March 9, 2005

Diamond Development Initiative Formed

A January meeting in London, England, spurred the formation of the Diamond Development Initiative, aimed at establishing a positive business and developmental environments for artisanal [independent] diamond miners in producing countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Walter Kansteiner (former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa) chaired the meeting, attended by representatives from the United Nations, the European Commission, the foreign ministries of Britain, the United States and Canada, DFID, USAID, the World Bank, governments and the diamond industry. Civil society organizations based in Europe, North America and Africa also participated.

"DDI emerges from recognition of two things," a De Beers press release explains. "First, the underlying problems of Africa's alluvial diamond operations and its estimated 1 million artisanal miners lie beyond the Kimberley Process Cerification Scheme, and have not yet been addressed. This is a development problem and one with several security dimensions – human, local, national and international. Second, the example of the KPCS suggests potential for real change, change that could bring artisanal alluvial diamond mining into the formal sector, with major benefits for miners, governments and the diamond industry at large."

KPCS was developed as a result of conflict diamonds, which were defined in 1998 as alluvial diamonds exploited, smuggled and traded by rebel armies in countries like Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo to finance bloody civil wars. It's estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have died in those countries as a result. Over a dozen meetings in countries around the world, involving members of producing and consuming governments, non-governmental officers and mining entities (such as De Beers) participated in the Kimberley Process discussions. KPCS, which is subject to peer review among participants, was devised to monitor exports and imports of diamonds and establish a diamond trading database. It became fully operational in 2003, and has been credited already for boosting the official exports for Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DDI has established two working groups to study the challenges and opportunities for artisanal miners in micro- and macro-economic terms.╩While no date was mentioned in the release, DDI, which is coordinating its efforts with KPCS, says it plans to have further meetings in the near future.

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

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