U.S. Initiatives on "Conflict Diamonds"
Fact Sheet released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State, May 23, 2000
The United States has been actively involved in initiatives to curb the powerful and far-reaching impact of the illegitimate diamond trade on African conflicts, particularly in Sierra Leone, Congo, and Angola. "It is time to attack the economy of war that supports illicit arms flows," Secretary of State Albright said in a special ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council in September, 1999. "In many instances, these transactions are fueled by sales of gemstones. . . Too often the profits fund violence and mayhem -- as in Sierra Leone, where illicit diamond profits allowed the Revolutionary United Front to transform itself from a band of 400 to a marauding army of thousands."
Any effective approach to the complex issue of "conflict diamonds" must involve a partnership of legitimate diamond-producing states, diamond-consuming and marketing states, and the diamond industry itself. To this end, the Administration has been supportive of a variety of measures to tighten global marketing practices and to build capacity to manage the diamond sector in affected states. At the same time, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that efforts to address conflict diamonds not harm the stable market democracies in Africa -- particularly Botswana, Namibia and South Africa -- which depend heavily on gemstone diamond production.
In recent months, the United States has made headway in engaging the diamond industry, the diamond producing states, and other members of the international community to address this problem.
-- the importance of establishing a global certification scheme for diamonds;
- In February, De Beers, the international diamond marketing corporation and the world's largest diamond mining operation, announced that it would cease purchasing diamonds from conflict zones in Africa, an important step towards limiting the market for conflict diamonds in Europe, Japan, and the United States.
- In May, at a conference on conflict diamonds in Kimberly, South Africa, African diamond producers, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and De Beers, among others, reached agreement in principle on four key points:
-- the need for a formal code of conduct to govern the practices of the industry, producing states
and marketing centers;
-- creation of an independent monitoring agency to supervise implementation of the certification scheme
and the code of conduct;
-- establishing a working group to make recommendations on specific mechanisms for implementing
The U.S. will continue to work closely with the southern African states to support full implementation of these important recommendations. In addition, the U.S. has been involved in a series of activities over the past year to advance prospects for a comprehensive solution:
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- Last October, the State Department sponsored an international conference in Washington focusing on the economies of war in Angola, Congo, and Sierra Leone, and initiated a direct dialogue with diamond officials from Botswana and Angola;
- In March, the Department sponsored a planning exercise with the Government of Sierra Leone and diamond industry leaders to develop a management plan for the country's diamond resources;
- Together with the UK, the U.S. played a leading role in a meeting with diamond authorities in Gaborone, Botswana, reinforcing support for the twin goals of defining pragmatic measures to combat conflict diamonds while taking special care to do no harm to the legitimate diamond trade;
- The U.S. and the UK have led the push to include the issue of conflict diamonds on the agenda for the G-8 meeting in Okinawa in July as part of an initiative on conflict prevention;
- The Administration has worked to support the efforts of the UN Experts Panel on UNITA sanctions aimed at strengthening the UN Security Council sanctions on diamonds from UNITA-held areas of Angola.
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