Archive for November, 2007
by AGavin on November 30th, 2007
PUBLIC DELEGATE RODGER YOUNG DELIVERS REMARKS ON THE ROLE OF DIAMONDS IN FUELLING CONFLICT, NEW YORK CITY, AS RELEASED BY THE U.S. MISSION TO THE U.N.
SPEAKER: U.S. PUBLIC DELEGATE TO THE U.N. RODGER YOUNG
“Mr. President, the United States is pleased to co-sponsor the resolution on the role of diamonds in fueling conflict.
The international community has much to be proud of when it comes to the efforts of the Kimberley Process. It is a tribute to the Kimberley Process that conflict diamonds today make up only a small percentage of the world’s diamond market. With the Kimberley Process, the international community now has the tools to head off future conflict and promote stability and security in diamond-rich regions of the world.
The unique manner in which governments, the diamond industry and civil society have worked together in the Kimberley Process to monitor and control the rough diamond trade should stand as a model as we confront other sources of conflict. This multi-stakeholder effort demonstrates what can be accomplished when governments join forces with the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
We salute our European Community colleagues who have led the Kimberley Process in 2007 to encourage the major diamond trading and manufacturing centers to strengthen internal controls over the diamond markets. European leadership also positioned the Kimberley Process to address the ongoing problem of diamond smuggling from Cote d’Ivoire through neighboring West African countries. We are confident that these initiatives, launched under the European leadership, will remain the hallmark of Kimberley Process efforts in the years ahead.
We were particularly pleased in 2007 to welcome Liberia as a participant in the Kimberley Process. The Liberian government moved quickly in the past year to capitalize on international support. Liberia set up a credible diamond monitoring system to enable the lifting of United Nations Security Council sanctions on its diamond exports and to participate in the Kimberley Process. We appreciate the long way Liberia has come from an era when diamonds financed brutal atrocities to the point today when diamonds are playing a positive force in the country’s economic reconstruction.
The United States also welcomes the efforts of donor countries to provide technical assistance to help Kimberley Process participants strengthen their internal controls. We believe that one of the best means to support stability and prevent renewed conflict in diamond- producing areas is to foster Kimberley Process controls at the same time that we support development opportunities for mining communities.
We look forward to working closely with India as it assumes the chair and Namibia as assumes the vice-chair of the Kimberley Process in 2008.”
Copyright © 2007 CQ Transcriptions, LLC
by AGavin on November 27th, 2007
Source: India Times
UNITED NATIONS: Noting that diamonds have played a crucial role in financing devastating conflicts, India has called for concerted steps to end illegal trade in the precious gem.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday, India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the world body Ajai Malhotra emphasised that the effort should not be solely seen through the narrow prism of peace and security. But efforts should be made to tackle the underlying causes and issue seen through the perspective of overall development agenda. Such efforts, Malhotra said, need to focus not only on the supply side, but also on all parts of the supply chain including processing, trading, and purchase by the consumer.
In this regard, he said the Kimberley Process of certification that the diamond was mined legally is an innovative and useful mechanism. “It approaches the problem not merely at the level of extraction, but also from the standpoint of processing and trading. Its certification scheme has been particularly effective in validating and regulating production of rough diamonds, as also on their trade,” he added.
For these reasons, major diamond trading and processing countries, like India, have engaged constructively and actively with this Process and support its full implementation, he said. In this context, he stressed the need for a strong government oversight of rough diamonds trading and manufacturing.
As Chair for 2008, India will strengthen the Kimberley Process mechanism by building on previous traditions and conventions and will strive to implement the decisions taken during the Brussels Plenary, he told the 192-member Assembly.
by AGavin on November 24th, 2007
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Sierra Leone plans to introduce new laws on diamond trading to boost earnings by ensuring most of its stones are polished before being shipped out, government officials said.
President Ernest Bai Koroma, who won an election in September on a promise to tackle corruption and heal divisions in the war-torn country, said the new policy would be put before parliament “as soon as possible”.
”We have not benefited as much as we should have from our mineral resources and that is why we are going to … put in place a mining policy that will ensure that we move away from having low returns,” Koroma told reporters late on Thursday.
He declined to elaborate what the policy would entail or whether it would mean banning or imposing quotas on the export of raw stones.
But a Koroma aide working on government mining policy said: “The idea is to get finished products exported after treating them there … legislation is inevitable.”
This would also create work for thousands of jobless people, said Koroma, who is in Kampala for Friday’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
“It will not only add value but it will enhance employment opportunities,” Bai Koroma said.
Sierra Leone is working hard to rebuild its economy and repair its image after a 1991-2002 civil war for control of its diamond fields, one of the most brutal in African history.
Despite the country’s mineral wealth, including diamonds, gold, rutile and bauxite, around three-quarters of Sierra Leoneans live below the poverty line. The government says this is because so many diamonds are smuggled out.
On Wednesday, Sierra Leone banned the export of mineral samples in an effort to stop smuggling, disappointing the diamond industry, which argues the west African nation lacks adequate technology.
At the end of October, Minister of Mines Alhaji Abubakar Jalloh said he would review all mining contracts to clean up corruption and cheating and increase the percentage of revenues that stay in Sierra Leone.
Under a scheme sponsored by the British government’s development arm, foreign experts are trying to help the administration overhaul its mining sector.
The UK-led Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which aims to ensure government and mining companies publish all transactions between them, is encouraging Sierra Leone to join.
by AGavin on November 22nd, 2007
Source: All Africa
Over 300 Batswana investors now hold in excess of 15 percent of BSE-listed African Diamonds.
This follows the recent acquisition of over 7.6 million shares in the company by asset management company Investec Botswana on behalf of investors.
The 7.6 million shares, which amount to almost 11 percent shareholding in the gem diamond mining company, were purchased at prices ranging from between P12.33 to P14.18 each.
The company’s chairman John Teeling said in a press statement that the company was pleased with the acquisition by Botswana investors, which means that they see value in African Diamonds’ shares.
“I am delighted with this purchase by Investec Botswana of behalf of their investors,” Teeling said.
“Over 10 percent of African Diamonds is a significant commitment and is very positive news for our shareholders in so far as knowledgeable investors on the ground in Botswana see value in our shares.
“The listing of African Diamonds on the Botswana Stock Exchange as well as AIM is working well.”
“Over 300 Batswana now hold more than 15 percent of the company,” he said. Through its whlly-owned subsidiary Kukama Mining, African Diamonds was awarded three new exploration licences near Orapa two weeks ago.
The new prospecting licences have brought the amount of land under exploration by African Diamonds alone to 3 473 square kilometres. In addition, the company is prospecting on about 3 700 square kilometres of land near Orapa through a joint venture with De Beers.
Following news of the awarding of the licences, African Diamonds stock has been one of the best performing mining counters on the BSE, gaining by 1.68 percent two weeks ago and by 0.72 percent last week.
“With £3,5-million in cash available to the company, there is more than enough capital to undertake the work set out for this year and probably next year as well,” African Diamonds MD James Campbell said in a recent interview with Mining Weekly.
Campbell stated that an important factor in being granted new licences in Botswana was abiding to due process and that African Diamonds benefited from being listed in Botswana where local funding and shareholding was approaching 60 percent.
The company has closed trading on the bourse at P14 since Monday.
by AGavin on November 20th, 2007
Agence France-Presse, BRUSSELS: Congo joined the Kimberley Process against the trade in so-called conflict diamonds on Thursday after being expelled over three years ago, the program’s chairman said at a conference in Brussels.
The international scheme, which was launched in 2003 and is known as the Kimberley Process after a diamond mining city in South Africa, aims to keep diamonds from financing wars via a certification initiative.
The European Commission, which currently holds Kimberley’s rotating presidency, hosted some 300 officials from industry, government and non-governmental organisations this week for a stock-take of its progress.
Congo, which was expelled in July 2004 for fraudulently exporting diamonds from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, was readmitted but only at the last minute, said Karel Kovanda, who chaired the meeting for the commission.
“The process of reintegrating the Congo was not easy, it took a lot of time,” he told journalists. “It wasn’t finalized till early this morning (Thursday) when the Congo came with the last document or two.”
Venezuela, which is often accused of ignoring the Kimberley Process’ rules, accepted to receive an inspection early next year but only after “delicate negotiations,” Kovanda said.
Non-governmental organisation Global Witness called a month ago for Venezuela to be kicked out of Kimberley for not respecting its rules.
An initiative was also launched to “address the cross-border movements of rough diamonds in the Ivory Coast” targetted by a UN arms and diamonds embargo,” Kovanda said.
He said the country needed to “re-establish appropriate internal control “if it wanted to join the Kimberley Process, which would only be possible “if and when the UN Security Council lift the sanctions.”
Prior to Congo, Liberia and Turkey already joined the process, which now counts 47 member countries and the 27-nation European Union.
Among non-members, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Mali, Mexico and Tunisia participated in the conference with the aim of joining.
Bahrein, Cape Verde, Gabon, Swaziland and Zambia have also expressed interest in participating in the programme, which will be chaired next year by India and in 2009 by Namibia.
Copyright © 2007 Agence France-Presse
by AGavin on November 18th, 2007
A new initiative for preventing diamonds from financing conflict in the Cote d’Ivoire has been agreed at an international conference in Brussels.
Since 2005 export of rough diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire has been banned by the United Nations due to violation of a ceasefire agreement between the Abidjan government and the New Forces guerrillas, which control the north of the country.
The embargo does not appear to have prevented Ivorian diamonds from entering Europe.
Last month it was reported that Belgian judicial authorities had confiscated 14 million euros (21 million dollars) worth of illegal diamonds of Ivorian origin. This was despite a screening system introduced by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre to block ‘conflict diamonds’ - gemstones sold to fund a war effort. Antwerp and London are Europe’s two largest centres for trading diamonds.
The Cote d’Ivoire was one of the major topics of discussion at the annual conference of the Kimberley Process - a grouping of 73 countries - in Brussels Nov. 5-8.
The Kimberley Process was launched in South Africa in 2000, when a number of governments met to examine how trade in illicit diamonds could be halted. Most observers feel that it has brought tangible benefits, especially through introduction of an international scheme for certifying the origin of diamonds in 2003.
Participants agreed that there should be a new effort to improve controls on rough diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire, with particular attention paid to its neighbouring countries. This follows concerns raised by the UN Security Council about involvement of Malian smuggling rings in shipping Ivorian diamonds abroad.
In November 2006, the Kimberley Process agreed with Ghana that a number of measures should be taken, following indications that Ivorian diamonds could have been transported through this West African country.
Karel Kovanada, the European Union official currently chairing the Kimberley Process, said that the modalities of this approach will have to be worked out by experts but that it will probably imply greater use of on-the-spot checks. Ghana’s exports already go through “extraordinary controls”, he told IPS.
But hampering Ivorian shipments that go via its other neighbours may prove trickier. Unlike Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso have not yet joined the Kimberley Process. According to Kovanda, however, they have indicated their willingness to cooperate with it.
“The borders of Cote d’Ivoire are porous,” said Ian Smillie, research coordinator with Partnership Africa Canada, an independent group that works to build sustainable human development in Africa. “The borders of its neighbours are also porous. Diamonds don’t stop in Burkina Faso, if that is where they are going. They all reach world markets in Europe, the U.S., Japan and India.”
During the 1990s, diamonds were a significant factor in the civil wars that devastated Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nearly 4 billion dollars worth of diamonds are believed to have passed through the hands of the Angolan rebel group UNITA in the 1992-98 period.
Smillie said that the proportion of conflict diamonds in the overall diamond trade may have fallen from 15 percent to less than 1 percent. “The Kimberley Process and other efforts helped to end this trade,” he said.
Although the Process is based on voluntary regulation, countries which do not belong to it may not sell diamonds to countries that do. And countries where controls are deemed lax may be suspended from the Process. This happened in the case of Congo-Brazzaville. After providing an explanation on why there was a gulf between rough diamond exports from the central African country and its actual capacity for production, it was re-admitted this week.
Smillie urged that laws be introduced to ensure that countries carry out audits and checks on diamonds. “Industry has asked for tougher government controls on industry,” he noted. “This is unusual. I can’t think of many industries that would ask for tougher controls. But it is all voluntary. What I would like to see in the months and years ahead is that more governments adopt these and make them compulsory within their own jurisdictions.”
Eli Izhakoff, chief executive with the World Diamond Council in New York, said it is “unprecedented” for an industry to seek the kind of controls that he favours over gemstone trading centres.
“Our policy is one conflict diamond is one diamond too much,” he told IPS. “We are doing everything in our power, together with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and governments, to make sure the right controls are in place. We have done a lot but of course there is more to be done.”
But Charmian Gooch, director of Global Witness, the organisation which exposed the role of diamonds in Angola’s civil war, is not convinced that industry is being sufficiently vigilant.
Gooch said that one of the problems with the certification scheme introduced in 2003 is that it is not accompanied by an “oversight and verification mechanism”, and does not provide for independent analysis of data.
“This resulted in a voluntary system of self-regulation parallel to the Kimberley Process because governments refused to take proper responsibility for the oversight of their own industries,” she said.
“Independent monitoring neither takes place nor is required to verify industry compliance with such measures. This self-regulation will remain inadequate as long as it is not backed up by independent monitoring and government oversight. The diamond industry has failed to live up to its promise to create an auditable tracking system to ensure that diamonds are conflict-free.”
by AGavin on November 16th, 2007
Agence France-Presse, FREETOWN: Ernest Bai Koroma was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s new president on Thursday and promised a “new dawn” for the war-scarred and corruption-tainted west African country.
“My inauguration marks a new dawn with unlimited opportunities,” Koroma said at his colorful inauguration ceremony at the national football stadium in the capital Freetown.
Elected on promises to fight corruption and turn around Sierra Leone’s fortunes, Koroma said it was time for some shock therapy in the world’s second most impoverished nation.
“The country requires a radical change in attitude to work and … responsibility,” he said after being handed the golden presidential baton, the symbol of power, by former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
“Our values have been undermined and eroded,” he said, citing the constant abuse of donor funds and equipment by state officials.
“This must be changed, and we need a radical break from this behavior,” he said.
“Unless we change our attitude towards corruption, our determination to eradicate this stigma, will be futile,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people, including five African heads of states and senior officials from the United States and Europe’s governments, attended the ceremony.
The African leaders included presidents Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
The United States was represented by assistant secretary of state for African Affairs - Jendayi Frazer.
Dressed in a white African robe with a matching head scarf, Koroma rode into the stadium on the back of a white horse draped in Sierra Leone’s national colours of green, blue and white to prolonged wild cheers from a 70,000-strong crowd.
Traditional dancers and a military band kept the crowd entertained during the half-day ceremony.
Koroma, 53, a leader of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) won a second round election with 54.6 percent of the votes against former vice president Solomon Berewa who gained 45.4 percent.
The elections, given a clean bill of health, were the first to be held after the pullout of a giant United Nations peacekeeping force following a gruesome decade-long civil war.
Sierra Leone was ravaged by the war which was fuelled by so-called blood-diamonds and ended in 2001 after claiming the lives around 120,000 people.
Tens of thousands of others had their limbs amputated and others traumatised in one of the most brutal conflicts in modern times.
The former ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) boycotted Thursday’s event in protest at the alleged intimidation of its supporters by the new government.
Koroma’s APC also won a majority 59 of the 112 elected seats in the single chamber parliament in which the SLPP took 43 seats, down from 83 in the previous assembly.
Copyright © 2007 Agence France-Presse
by AGavin on November 14th, 2007
By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - A passage through India is giving Africa’s blood diamonds a respectable polish. According to reports, blood diamonds are being smuggled into the city of Surat, where they are cut and polished, then sold to respectable firms which go on to easing these illegal stones into the legitimate diamond supply chain.
Surat is the center of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing industry. Ninety-two percent of the world’s diamonds are crafted here. Located 250 kilometers north of Mumbai, the city earned
India US$11 billion in exports last year. According to media reports, a sizeable number of rough diamonds entering Surat for cutting and polishing might in fact be blood diamonds.
Blood diamonds or conflict diamonds are those mined in war-torn African countries such as Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Congo by warlords and rebels to finance arms purchases and other illegal activities.
Blood diamonds account for a small fraction of the diamond trade. At the height of the problem in the mid-1990s, about 4% of the global diamond trade was blood diamonds, according to the diamond industry. Global Witness, an international non-governmental organization that has drawn attention to human-rights abuse in resource-linked conflicts, puts the figure at 15%.
The role of blood diamonds in funding and prolonging wars and in devastating communities in west and southwest Africa has been immense. An international campaign highlighting this prompted the United Nations to pass a resolution calling for the creation of an international certification scheme to break the link between the illicit trade in rough diamonds and mass human-rights abuses associated with armed conflict.
This put pressure on the international community and the diamond industry to act. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was put in place in 2003 to regulate the trade in rough diamonds, that is, to prevent trade in blood diamonds while protecting the legitimate trade in diamonds. It is aimed at assuring buyers of diamonds that their stones have not contributed to bloodshed. It involves monitoring of diamonds at every point of the diamond pipeline, from mining through to retail, to ensure that diamonds from areas that the UN calls “conflict zones” do not slip into the legitimate supply chain.
The diamond industry maintains that the Kimberley process has solved the problem and that less than 1% of the diamonds in the market today are from conflict zones. However, a 2006 UN report drew attention to blood diamonds from rebel-held areas in the Ivory Coast skirting a UN diamond embargo and being smuggled out through neighboring Ghana and Mali.
According to investigative media reports, blood diamonds are smuggled into Surat in fishing boats. These are cut and polished in the diamond bazaars of this town, sold to reputed firms who then export the stones with a certification that they were not imported from conflict areas.
Officials of the Surat Diamond Association, an industry organization which has about 3,000 diamond establishments in Surat as its members, insist that the industry is scrupulously observing international norms and respects the ban on dealing with blood diamonds.
“We are aware of the implications [of dealing in blood diamonds] internationally and we are very careful,” insists Umesh Shah of the Mumbai-based Shrenuj and Company, a leading diamond and jewelry manufacturer and exporter.
“Our customers in the US and Europe compel us to follow the processes, and we in turn ensure that the rough diamonds that we get are 100% conflict-free,” points out Sohil Kothari, director, Fine Jewelry (India) Pvt Ltd, a leading exporter of diamond studded jewelry.
But a diamond exporter from Surat who spoke on condition of anonymity told Asia Times Online that there might be a handful of diamond merchants who are dealing in conflict diamonds. These are mainly owners of smaller diamond establishments. “The larger establishments are wary of tarnishing their reputation and reliability,” he pointed out.
Indian intelligence officials say that blood diamonds will have to be identified before they enter Surat as once a rough diamond is polished it is impossible to trace its place of origin. “If we have to catch blood diamonds it has to be at the very point of their entry, that is, at the airports and seaports,” says an official of the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).
DRI officials say that the diamond cutting establishments are under their scanner and that they are keeping an eye on them. But they are wary of acting without adequate evidence, given the impact it will have on the industry. Diamond polishing is a major foreign exchange earner. It consists of about 6,000 small and large diamond cutting and polishing units and employs over 700,000 people.
The officials insist that if evidence is found, they will act because the stain of dealing with blood diamonds will damage the industry’s reputation.
A diamond exporter from Mumbai described the allegations against Surat’s diamond dealings as “a motivated campaign” by competitors in the international arena. The growth of India’s diamond industry has been “phenomenal”, he said, and has triggered envy among communities that have traditionally dominated the business, and this might be behind their “disinformation campaign”, he said.
Indians account for about 65% of the $26 billion in diamond trade revenues, up from about 25% two decades ago. The share of Jewish businessmen has apparently fallen from 70% to 25% in the same period as Indian businessmen make inroads into the traditional Jewish-dominated hub of Antwerp in Belgium and Tel Aviv.
Indian merchants say that given the fierce competition overseas they are anxious to ensure that their credibility and image remain good; hence they are keen that the “government cracks down on those dealing in blood diamonds, if there are any”.
Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.
by AGavin on November 11th, 2007
Amazon announced on Tuesday that the company is selling 75 percent more diamonds this year than last year. What the retail giant won’t tell you is whether all the jewelry it sells is “conflict-free,” meaning the diamonds it contains are guaranteed not to have been brought to market through violence, human rights abuse, child labor, or environmental destruction.
Jewelers and human rights activists use the term “blood diamond” to refer to gems that have been mined and sold with the use of exploitative human labor practices, often in countries where the proceeds from diamond sales are used to fund bloody civil wars. Approximately 5 percent of all diamonds sold, and an unknown number of Amazon’s, are blood diamonds.
“The only way to keep blood diamonds off the market is to certify all the conflict-free diamonds on the market,” said Robert Cosentino, founder and executive director of The Conflict Free Diamond Council, an organization that works to promote conflict free diamond awareness in consumers.
While Amazon refused to give EPICENTER specifics on exactly how much diamond jewelry the company sells, its Jewelry and Watches section is currently offering more than 100,000 items with diamonds, including 5,000 diamond watches, 16,000 pairs of diamond earrings, 22,000 diamond necklaces and 7,000 diamond bracelets.
Tracy Ogden, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said on Tuesday that all diamonds on the site are supposed to be conflict free.
However, Amazon’s product listings do not specify which diamond products on its site have been certified as conflict free. A search for “conflict free” within the Jewelry and Watches section returns only two results, one of which is not a diamond.
“If you ask me where the diamonds on Amazon came from, I can’t tell you, nobody can,” Cosentino says. “The chances are good that they are conflict-free but that doesn’t stop the blood trade with diamonds. You’ve just really got to start to demand that every single one of those diamonds is actually certified.”
Without certification attached to specific products, how is a consumer to know that a particular diamond product is conflict free?
by AGavin on November 9th, 2007
In a statement posted by Global Witness following the Kimberley Process plenary session, which ended November 8 in Brussels, the group reported that progress was made during the meeting.Â
One point of contention for many member participants this year has been the lack of response from Venezuela, however Global Witness report that the country agreed to an inspection visit by the Kimberley Process during the first quarter of 2008. For the past 24-hours (as of this posting,) no one from the Kimberley Process has been available for comment on two other hot topics: Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire.
“NGOs welcomed a Brussels declaration adopted by plenary, calling on countries with trading and manufacturing to carry out effective enforcement measures to ensure adequate government oversight over the trade of rough diamonds,” the statement read from Global Witness.Â Â Â
Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness said, “Weak controls and enforcement in major trading and manufacturing centers are undermining the effectiveness of the KP and allowing conflict and illicit diamonds to enter the legitimate trade.â€
â€œCountries should move quickly to strengthen internal controls as outlined in the Brussels declaration,â€ she added.
The plenary was the final meeting for the Kimberley Process under European Union chairmanship. India takes the reigns in 2008. Global Witness called upon India to “demonstrate strong leadership in strengthening the Kimberley Process and to build on ongoing efforts to close loopholes in cutting and polishing centers.”