13/03/2002
Press Release
GA/10011



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

96th Meeting (AM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY URGES FINALIZATION OF INTERNATIONAL CERTIFICATION


SCHEME FOR ROUGH DIAMONDS


Success of ‘Kimberley Process’ a Matter of Life and Death

For Southern Africa, Says Botswana as Assembly Adopts Text on Conflict Diamonds


Encouraging the "Kimberley Process" to resolve outstanding issues, the General Assembly this morning adopted, without a vote, a resolution on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:  breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts.


The "Kimberley Process" was established in 2000 through initiatives by Southern African diamond-producing countries to:  stem the flow of rough diamonds used by rebels to finance armed conflict aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments; protect the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries are dependent for their socio-economic development; and to create and implement an international certification scheme for rough diamonds.


By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly calls for the full implementation of existing Council measures targeting the illicit trade in rough diamonds that play a role in fuelling conflict.


Further to the resolution, the Assembly urged the finalization of the international certification scheme, and its subsequent implementation, as soon as possible, and also urged Member States to participate actively in the proposed scheme.


The representative of Botswana, a co-convener of the Kimberley Process, said the issue of conflict diamonds had tarnished the image of Africa, as well as the public perception of a resource that otherwise should be one of sustenance and development for diamond-producing countries.


For those whose economies and democratic governance structures were sustained by the resources of diamond mining and processing, he said, the success of the Kimberley Process was a matter of life and death, as it was for those countries that had fallen victim to the murderous activities of rebel groups and their illegal trading in diamonds.


Introducing the text, the representative of South Africa said the detailed proposals for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds developed

by the Kimberley Process provided a good basis for the envisaged international diamond-control mechanism.  That scheme could help ensure effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions containing sanctions on the trade in conflict diamonds.  The text also encouraged the Kimberley Process to resolve outstanding issues, such as World Trade Organization (WTO) compatibility and definition of participants.


The representatives of the United States, Canada, Japan, Spain (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) and Belgium also spoke on the subject.


In other business, the Assembly adopted, also without a vote, a resolution on the review of the problem of human immunodeficiency virus/immunodeficiency syndrome in all its aspects, whereby it requested the Secretary-General to prepare a report on progress achieved in realizing the goals set out in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, adopted at its twenty-sixth special session held in New York from 25 to 27 June 2001.


The Assembly's President, Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea), announced that three plenary meetings devoted to information and communication technologies for development will be held on Monday and Tuesday, 17 and 18 June.


The General Assembly will meet again at a date and time to be announced.


Background


The General Assembly met this morning to discuss the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict and the review of the problem of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in all its aspects.


Conflict Diamonds


Among documents before the Assembly were letters from South Africa transmitting the report on the Kimberley Process to the Secretary-General (documents A/56/502, 675 and 775).


The Kimberley Process was established through initiatives by Southern African diamond-producing countries to:


-- Stem the flow of rough diamonds used by rebels to finance armed conflict aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments;


-- Protect the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries are dependent for their socio-economic development;


-- Create and implement an international certification scheme for rough diamonds, based primarily on national certification schemes and on internationally agreed standards.


Assembly resolution 55/56 (1 December 2000) asked countries participating in the Kimberley Process to present to the Assembly, no later than its fifty-sixth session, a report on progress made in developing detailed proposals for a simple and workable international certification scheme for rough diamonds.


According to the report, participation in the Process included the European Community and States involved in the production, exporting and importing of rough diamonds; representatives from the diamond industry; and civil society. Representatives from the United Nations Sanctions Committees for Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Monitoring Mechanism on the Situation in Angola, as well as the Expert Panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also attended the meetings.


Between February and November 2001, the Kimberley Process, chaired by South Africa, held six meetings in different locales.  At those meetings, detailed proposals for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds were developed and presented in the form of Kimberley Process Working Document 9/2001, "Essential Elements of an International Scheme of Certification for Rough Diamonds".  It was felt that the proposals provided a good basis for the envisaged certification scheme.


It was also declared that the certification scheme should be established through international understanding as soon as possible.  Also, those in a position to issue the Kimberley Process Certificate should do so immediately.  All others were encouraged to do so by 1 June 2002.  It was the intention of participants to start full implementation by the end of 2002.  Ministers recommended that the United Nations take action to support the implementation of the international certification scheme for rough diamonds.


The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:  breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts (document A/56/L.72), whereby it would recognize that the proposed international certification scheme for rough diamonds developed in the Kimberley Process would also help to ensure implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions containing sanctions on the trade in conflict diamonds.  The Assembly would call for the full implementation of existing Council measures targeting the illicit trade in rough diamonds that play a role in fuelling conflict.


Further to the draft, the Assembly would urge the finalization of the international certification scheme, and its subsequent implementation, as soon as possible, and would urge Member States to participate actively in the proposed international certification scheme.


The draft is sponsored by Angola, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Canada, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.


HIV/AIDS


The Assembly had before it a draft resolution submitted by its President on review of the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects (document A/56/L.73).  According to the draft text, it would request the Secretary-General to prepare a report on progress achieved in realizing the commitments set out in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, adopted at its twenty-sixth special session held in New York from 25 to 27 June 2001, with a view to identifying problems and constraints and making recommendations on action needed to make further progress.


DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), introducing draft resolution A/56/L.73, said the text was procedural in nature.  It did not contain provisions that had financial implications.  It welcomed the detailed proposals for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds developed by the Kimberley Process, which provided a good basis for the envisaged international diamond-control mechanism.


He said the text recognized that the proposed international certification scheme could help ensure effective implementation of the relevant Council resolutions containing sanctions on the trade in conflict diamonds.  It also encouraged the Kimberley Process to resolve outstanding issues, such as World Trade Organization (WTO) compatibility and definition of participants.  More importantly, it encouraged all States involved in the diamond trade to participate in the proposed international certification scheme.


He informed the Assembly that China, France, Guinea, India, Israel, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Brazil, Ukraine, Madagascar and Colombia had also become co-sponsors of the text.


SICHAN SIV (United States) said his Government remained committed to working jointly with leaders from other governments of diamond-producing and importing nations, legitimate private diamond enterprises, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in fighting the illicit trade in diamonds.  In the past year the Kimberley Process had made strong progress towards developing proposals for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds.  Reaching consensus on the elements of the proposed international certification scheme had been a monumental accomplishment. 


The draft resolution before the Assembly today stood as testimony to the dedication of all Kimberley Process participants to working side by side in addressing the problem of illicit diamonds.  Work, however, was not over.  Next week a Kimberley Process meeting would be held in Ottawa, Canada, to resolve some remaining issues.  He urged all Member States to continue working to make the proposed international certification scheme a reality.


PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said the goal of the current meeting was nothing less than the full implementation of effective measures to eliminate the role of diamonds as a driver of conflict, and there was yet important work to be done. While the devastation of the exploitation of conflict diamonds might be concentrated in a handful of countries, particularly in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, resolving the problem was a global responsibility which demanded a continuing commitment by all Member States, in cooperation with other important stakeholders.


Through the World Diamond Council, the diamond industry had over the last year further developed and refined its proposals for a system of voluntary self-regulation.  Civil society was of critical importance in the partnership, not only in the generation of creative ideas and awareness, but also in galvanizing the political will necessary to deal with the problem. 


The Kimberley Process had made significant progress in developing an international certification scheme for rough diamonds, he said.  There were, however, some significant points left to be resolved, including issues related to verification, administrative support, and the collection, accessibility and comparability of statistics.  He hoped the next meeting of the Kimberley Process in Ottawa, Canada, would make substantial progress on those concerns.  He believed the Kimberley Process must remain focused on solutions that were effective, pragmatic, credible and inclusive.


TAKEO AKIBA (Japan) said his Government welcomed the draft.  Although not a major trader of rough diamonds, Japan had been participating actively in the Kimberley Process discussions as an effective means of conflict prevention. 


He said that in order to ensure the effectiveness of the proposed international certification scheme, his Government would like to stress that such a scheme must enjoy the widest possible participation.  Second, it should be in conformity with international law and not impede the legitimate trade in rough diamonds.  He hoped those two points would be reflected in the draft to be adopted.  He also called upon those who had not yet joined the Kimberley process to do so as soon as possible.


INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Iceland, said the fight against trafficking in conflict diamonds was essential in the settlement of conflicts, as well as a key component for preventing the emergence or recurrence of conflicts.  In the attempts to find effective ways of addressing trade in conflict diamonds, there had been two key players:  the United Nations and the Kimberley Process.

He said the work done by the United Nations and the Kimberley Process was complementary, since finalization of the international certification scheme for rough diamonds would prove very important to ensuring the effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.  The European Union encouraged an expeditious finalization of the international certification scheme, and expected further progress in that direction during the next meeting of the Kimberley Process in Ottawa, in order to meet the deadline for implementation.


The European Union fully supported the draft resolution tabled by South Africa and intended to continue to play an active and constructive role on the matter.  He encouraged the widest possible participation in the envisaged international certification scheme.


JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium) said much progress in addressing the issue of illicit diamonds had been made and participation in the Kimberley Process had expanded.  A solid basis had been provided for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds.  It was now important for the international community to continue to support the process and proceed as soon as possible to finalization of a certification scheme.  The success of that scheme would depend on its comprehensive and universal application.


He said the purpose of the Kimberley Process was to guarantee a diamond trade that was not stained with the blood of conflict diamonds.  That trade must be transparent and backed by reliable and comprehensive statistics.


LEUTLWETSE MMUALEFE (Botswana) said that as a co-convener of the Kimberley Process, he welcomed the debate on a matter of crucial importance to his country and Africa.  The issue of conflict diamonds had tarnished the image of Africa.  It had tarnished the public perception of a resource that otherwise should be one of sustenance and development for diamond-producing countries.


His country’s determined involvement in the Kimberley Process was driven by two dominant considerations.  As an African nation, Botswana felt the pain associated with the bitter conflicts that had been waged on African soil.  Also, as the world’s leading supplier of rough gem diamonds, his country had a far greater degree of economic dependence on the diamond industry than any other Member State.  The industry directly contributed one third of its gross domestic product.  For those whose economies and democratic governance structures were sustained by the resources of diamond mining and processing, the success of the Kimberley Process was a matter of life and death, as it was for those countries that had fallen victim to the murderous activities of rebel groups and their illegal trading in diamonds.


During 2001, he said, there had already been a severe decline in the diamond trade despite international efforts to effectively address the issue of conflict diamonds.  That decline had a major impact on Botswana’s economic and social development plans.  He therefore urged the Assembly to adopt the draft resolution and urged participants in the Kimberley Process to move swiftly to final agreement on all outstanding points, including establishing a credible international monitoring structure.  He also urged the international community to insist on urgent action to minimize further loss of life and further economic damage.  He urged all parties to show the same urgency which had been shown in recent months regarding the war against terrorism, as this matter was part of that same war.

Action on Draft Resolution


The Assembly was informed that Colombia and Hungary had also joined as co-sponsors of the draft resolution.


The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflicts, as contained in document A/56/L.72, and concluded its consideration of the agenda item.


HIV/AIDS


The Assembly adopted, also without a vote, the draft resolution on review of the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects, as contained in document A/56/L.73, and concluded its consideration of that agenda item.


* *** *