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Nov. 2004

The conflict diamond issue again was raised at the World Congress, again by non-governmental groups.

Amnesty International and Global Witness presented a survey that said that many US retailers did not respond to letters asking them for information about their polices on conflict diamonds, and some of the responses did not provide adequate details on what the stores’ policies were to avoid conflict diamonds. It also said that the salespeople at many stores were unaware of conflict diamonds and did not provide adequate responses to their questions.

The groups “criticized the industry’s efforts as little more than public relations” and said it was “falling far short of adequately monitoring self-regulation,” the Financial Times said.

The industry responds: In response, the IDMA and WFDB reiterated their commitment to end any use of rough diamonds for the purpose of funding conflict in Africa.

“Diamonds make an enormous contribution to the economic development and prosperity of the nations that produce, cut, manufacture and design diamonds and diamond jewelry,” a joint resolution said. “We will continue to remain vigilant so that rough diamonds are never again used to fuel war.”

The groups urged that members seek for their suppliers on guarantees on their invoices that the accompanying diamonds do not fund conflict, and to educate themselves about the Kimberley Process and the supporting system of warranties.

The trade’s opinion: While many in the trade have long been supportive of the NGO’s goals of stopping conflict diamonds, they find it very hard to work up any support for this latest campaign. The industry has accomplished a good deal with the Kimberley Process. Should that not matter if it’s found that a salesperson doesn’t know what a conflict diamond is? And even if every store gave them a thorough answer, this wouldn’t make a difference for Kimberley, which is a tightly designed and monitored scheme meant to track the flow of rough. It is harder—if not impossible — to track polished, and that is not necessary anyway if all the rough coming out of the ground has been certified as clean.

Unfortunately, a great portion of retailers’ inventories dates back to before there was a conflict diamond issue, thereby making certification of all stones in those inventories an impossibility.

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