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Fact Sheet: U.S. Initiatives On “Conflict Diamonds”

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Fact Sheet: U.S. Initiatives On "Conflict Diamonds"

U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman

For over a year 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 Albright said in a special ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council last September. "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."

The Administration's approach to the complex issue of "conflict diamonds" is to work through a partnership of legitimate diamond-producing states, diamond-consuming and marketing states, and the diamond industry itself. To this end, the Administration has been taking steps 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.

  • On July 5, the UN Security Council--with strong U.S. support–-adopted a resolution calling on member states to ban the import of diamonds from Sierra Leone unless those diamonds were exported under a certification scheme to be approved by a Security Council Sanctions Committee. That Committee will hold an open hearing on the role of diamonds in the Sierra Leone conflict July 31-August 1. The United States will speak in strong support of a comprehensive effort to break the link between diamonds and conflict in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in Africa.
  • On July 15, U.S. diamond experts –- together with UK officials and representatives of the Diamond High Council -– traveled to Freetown to work with the government of Sierra Leone on a certification system for diamond exports.
  • The U.S. has also taken the lead in establishing Sierra Leone's Commission on the Management of Strategic Resources, committing one million dollars to the effort and providing considerable technical advice.
  • On July 19, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association adopted a joint resolution emphasizing the importance of oversight and accountability and proposing a specific program of action to track the flow of rough diamonds. U.S. proposals for a global certification system were instrumental in shaping the resolution.
  • 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 issue reached agreement in principle on four key points:
    • the importance of establishing a global certification scheme for diamonds;
    • 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 these agreements.

The U.S. will work continue to work closely with the southern African states to support full implementation of these important recommendations. The Working Group has already met twice, in June in Luanda and in London in July.

  • 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.

The U.S. has been involved in a series of other activities over the past year to advance prospects for a comprehensive solution:

  • Last year 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;
  • 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 organizing a meeting in Gaborone, Botswana with diamond authorities, reinforcing consensus 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 as part of an initiative on conflict prevention;
  • The Administration has worked to support the efforts of the UN Experts Panel on UNITA sanctions, under the direction of Canadian Permanent Representative to the UN Robert Fowler.

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