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Tentative agreement reached to stop trade in "conflict diamonds"

JOHANNESBURG, 29 November 2001 (IRIN) - Delegates attending talks on
"conflict diamond" in Gaborone, Botswana have reached a tentative
agreement to help stem the trade in the illegal gems that are
fuelling conflicts in countries like Angola, Sierra Leone and the
Democratic Republic of Congo.

Alex Yearsley from the campaign group Global Witness who is
attending the discussions told IRIN: "We have almost reached a
final agreement, and we will be ready to present it to the United
Nations in December for a resolution to be tabled in the General
Assembly."

The UN has defined "conflict diamonds" as "diamonds that originate
from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate
and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund
military action in opposition to those governments".

Yearsley said that although Global Witness was not "fully
satisfied" with the agreement, the organisation was however
"greatly encouraged". He said that issues surrounding the
monitoring and evaluation of a certification scheme still needed to
be "worked on".

"There are also still some issues surrounding WTO (World Trade
Organisation) compatibility as some countries are not completely
happy with this part of the agreement," Yearsley said.

Diplomatic sources told IRIN that it was important to recognise the
progress that had been made in the last 18 months. "The terrain
that has been covered is impressive," one western diplomat said.

The Gaborone meeting is part of the Kimberley Process aimed at
developing a system to prevent conflict diamonds from making their
way on to the open market.

Meanwhile, news reports said that the US Congress had on Wednesday
approved a bill to prevent the sale of conflict diamonds. Reports
said that a companion bill has been introduced in the Senate and
was also expected to pass.

Under the bill, the US president would have the authority to
sanction countries that refused to adopt a system for tracking
diamonds to ensure they were from legitimate sources. The
legislation effectively makes the United States the first country
to regulate the diamond industry.

Reports said that once enacted the law would go into affect
immediately and included an estimated US $10 million over two years
to help poor countries set up certification systems.

****************************************************************

Statement of Physicians for Human Rights
on Conflict Diamonds Legislation
November 26, 2001

http://www.phrusa.org

The Clean Diamonds Trade Act that is expected to be passed by the
House of Representatives this evening is a compromise negotiated
between Congress and the executive branch. Physicians for Human
Rights, while noting that this measure is considerably weaker than
the bill HR2722 that our organization has endorsed, welcomes the
passage of this legislation as a bridge to the enactment of diamond
control regimen negotiated by the Kimberley Process. Once this
legislation is enacted into law, the United States can proudly
claim to be the first country in the world to have put in place
diamond import controls that are linked to an international regimen
to exclude conflict diamonds from the legitimate trade. Physicians
for Human Rights appreciates the diligence and commitment of the
bill's chief sponsors, Rep. Tony Hall, Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Amo
Houghton, Rep. Charley Rangel, and Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and
expresses its thanks as well to the Republican and Democratic
leadership of the House of Representatives for bringing this
measure to the floor before adjournment. ...

The United States is legally bound to implement UN Security Council
Resolutions that prohibit the importation of diamonds from
rebel-controlled Sierra Leone, rebel-controlled Angola, and
Liberia. But such international embargoes are impossible to
implement absent a coordinated international control regimen. The
Kimberley system of rough diamond controls that is in its final
stages of negotiations is a system whereby countries agree to adopt
standardized packaging and import/export controls on diamonds, and
agree only to trade with countries that have themselves adopted the
standardized controls. This clean and closed trading system is the
only way that blood diamonds can be squeezed out of the legitimate
trade.

The compromise Clean Diamonds Trade Act that is expected to be
enacted this evening contains a number of welcome features that
will help push the Kimberley Process to completion and encourage
the United States and other governments to put in place its
requirements at the earliest possible date. In this regard we note
that the new bill includes a large degree of presidential
discretion. It is our hope and expectation that the Congress's
interest in stopping the flow of blood diamonds to the United
States will be matched by the Bush Administration. The waiver and
exclusion authority contained in the bill are meant to protect the
United States against challenges at the WTO, not to provide a safe
harbor for conflict diamonds.

Africans have long been at risk from conflict diamonds. Now that
the linkage between blood diamonds and bin Laden has been exposed,
Americans are also at risk. With the passage of HR2722 the Bush
Administration will have the tools in hand to take strong action at
home and support a strong international regimen to end the trade in
conflict diamonds.

**************************************************************

PRESS RELEASE

22 November 2001

World-wide diamond certificate out of reach ....
governments should practice what they preach.

Fatal Transactions, c/o NIZA, PO Box 10707, 1001 ES Amsterdam The
Netherlands, phone: +31-20-520.6210; fax: +31-20-520.6249; email:
ft@niza.nl; http://www.niza.nl/fataltransactions

Fatal Transactions consists of five non-profit organisations:
Global Witness in the UK, Medico in Germany, Intermon in Spain,
and Novib and NiZA in the Netherlands.

The establishment of a world-wide agreement against conflict
diamonds is in serious need of some cardiac massage, concludes the
Fatal Transaction campaign against conflict diamonds. Ministers of
diamond producing and importing countries and the European
Commission were supposed to ratify an agreement on certification
of diamonds, on November 29 2001 in Gaborone, the capital of
Botswana. But the latest situation suggests that hardly any
ministers will be present. For two years negotiations have been
taken place between governments, the diamond industry and NGOs to
stop the fuelling of armed conflict through sale of blood
diamonds. Now that the end is in sight various governments are
watering down the agreement, which is now simply a list of
recommendations. Although there is a broad consensus to stop the
trade in conflict diamonds, governments prepare for some last
minute opt-outs.

'Governments should practice what they preach and not leave the
responsibility to stop armed conflicts with diamond jewellery
buying consumers' says Judith Sargentini, co-ordinator of the
Fatal Transaction campaign against conflict diamonds. The
terrorist attacks on New York have shown that the world is small,
but Africa is still too far away for western countries to reach
out. NGOs demand that governments set aside their differences,
demonstrate their solidarity with the people in Angola, DRC and
Sierra Leone and agree in Gaborone to a world-wide certifications
scheme of diamonds.

The governments taking part in this so-called Kimberley Process
will again send their diplomats for a new game of scrabble, but
ministers will not fly in when the outcome is not of substance.
This game can go on for years, to the cost of thousands of
innocent Africans. The European Commission, that planned to send
Commissioner Lamy or Patten, will keep its hotshots on ice and
will await the outcome of the two days negotiations. It is vital
that the USA government reviews its problems with the issuing of
re-export certificates of unpolished diamonds leaving the USA, as
well as with the cost and the paperwork for an international
secretariat monitoring the implementation of such regulations.

The General Assembly of the UN, 56th session, taking place in
December, awaits a proposal for world wide certification scheme
for diamonds. Chances are that the meeting will end up where it
started: everyone seeing the need to stop civil wars and armed
conflicts in Angola, Congo and Sierra Leone, but exporting and
importing countries being afraid of their market position, leaving
the African people to suffer.
    
    
    
    

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