GENERAL ASSEMBLY URGES STATES TO IMPLEMENT MEASURES TO WEAKEN LINK BETWEEN DIAMOND TRADE AND WEAPONS FOR REBEL MOVEMENTS

1 December 2000
GA/9839

GENERAL ASSEMBLY URGES STATES TO IMPLEMENT MEASURES TO WEAKEN LINK BETWEEN DIAMOND TRADE AND WEAPONS FOR REBEL MOVEMENTS

1 December 2000

Press ReleaseGA/9839

GENERAL ASSEMBLY URGES STATES TO IMPLEMENT MEASURES TO WEAKEN LINK BETWEEN DIAMOND TRADE AND WEAPONS FOR REBEL MOVEMENTS

20001201

Support Sought for Security Council Resolutions on Global Efforts To Limit Role of ‘Conflict Diamonds”; Suffering in African Nations Cited

The General Assembly this afternoon called upon all States to implement fully Security Council measures targeting the link between the trade in conflict diamonds and the supply to rebel movements of weapons, fuel or other prohibited materiel. The Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on the role of diamonds in fueling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict, as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts.

By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly urged all States to support efforts of the diamond-producing, processing, exporting and importing countries, and the diamond industry, to find ways to break the link between conflict diamonds and armed conflict.

The Assembly also expressed the need to give urgent and careful consideration to devising effective and pragmatic measures to address the problem of conflict diamonds, the elements of which would include, among other things, the creation and implementation of a simple and workable international certification scheme for rough diamonds, and the need for national practices to meet internationally agreed minimum standards.

In introducing the resolution, the representative of South Africa said that ordinarily diamonds were a precious commodity, purchased because of their beauty. However, the trade of diamonds had an ugly side to it. No one could forget the sight of the children of Sierra Leone, missing their limbs, which were brutally hacked off by crazed killers funded on the profits of the illicit trade in conflict diamonds. This practice had also caused the displacement and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Angolan citizens by the diamond-funded National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels. It was important to emphasize, however, that conflict diamonds consisted of about only four per cent of the total world diamond market. The legitimate trade in diamonds was critical to economic development in many countries.

The representative of Sierra Leone said diamonds were certainly not the best friends of the women in his country, who had lost lives or limbs as a

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direct result of illicit proceeds from the sale of conflict diamonds. He said the crisis engulfing Sierra Leone, Angola and other diamond-producing countries had been characterized as a long-festering ethnic struggle, mirrored in elements such as socio-economic inequities, oppression of minorities and suppression of human rights. The crisis was, in fact, neither insurrection nor civil war. "It has been and remains plain thuggery," he said.

He said nine years of banditry and horrific brutality had been caused by the complex, entrenched relationship between exploitative systems of financial intermediation and resource management, poverty and the spectacularly mysterious wealth of the diamond trade.

Angola's representative said although conflict diamonds constituted only 4 per cent of the total world diamond trade, the illicit trade reflected negatively on the producing countries as well as on the whole industry. The international community should join hands to fight vigorously against the problem of conflict diamonds in fuelling conflict. Angola had been one of the first countries to understand the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict.

The representative of India warned that although it was important that the principal countries engaged in the diamond industry should continue their consultations and their efforts, measures must not lead to undue financial or administrative burden on governments or on the industry. Some proposals might actually end up adversely affecting the legitimate trade in diamonds. Diamonds did not kill people, he said, arms and weapons did.

Also addressing the Assembly were the representatives of the United States, France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Egypt, Australia, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Argentina, Burkina Faso, Canada, Belgium, Botswana, Russian Federation, Namibia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the Permanent Observer for Switzerland.

The Assembly will meet again Monday, 4 December, at 10 a.m. to consider the situation in Central America.

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Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to take up consideration of the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict.

Background Information

According to the United Nations internet site (www.un.org/peace/africa/ Diamond.html) "conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments". Most notably, it is said that in Angola and Sierra Leone conflict diamonds are being employed to fund the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), both of which are acting in defiance of Security Council initiatives to restore peace in the two countries.

To distinguish a legitimate diamond from a conflict diamond, a well- structured "Certificate of Origin" regime was proposed to ensure that only legitimate diamonds, those from government-controlled areas, reached the marketplace. Further controls by Member States and the diamond industry might include the standardization of the certificate among diamond-exporting countries, transparency, auditing and monitoring of the regime and new legislation against those who fail to comply. These measures are said to be urgently needed to combat the flow of rough diamond caches employed by rebel forces to finance illicit arms purchases, because once diamonds are brought to market their origin is difficult to trace and, once polished, they can no longer be identified.

On 19 July of this year the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp adopted a resolution which, if fully implemented, would increase the international diamond industry's ability to block conflict diamonds from reaching the market. For its part, the United Nations, in applying Chapter VII of the Charter, had targeted sanctions against both UNITA and the Sierra Leone rebels, including a ban on illicit diamonds (Security Council resolutions 1173 of 12 June 1998 and 1176 of 24 June 1998).

The Security Council adopted resolution 1306 on 5 July of this year imposing a ban on the direct or indirect import of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone not controlled by the Government of Sierra Leone through a Certificate of Origin regime.

Draft resolution

The Assembly has 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 conflict (document A/55/L.52).

By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would call upon all States to implement fully Security Council measures targeting the link between the trade in conflict diamonds and the supply to rebel movements of weapons, fuel or other prohibited material. It would urge all States to support efforts of the diamond-producing, processing, exporting and importing countries and the diamond industry to find ways to break the link between conflict diamonds and armed conflict, and encourage other appropriate initiatives to that end, including, inter alia, improved international cooperation on law enforcement.

The Assembly would express the need to give urgent and careful consideration to devising effective and pragmatic measures to address the problem of conflict diamonds, the elements of which would include:

a. The creation and implementation of a simple and workable international certification scheme for rough diamonds;

b. The basing of the scheme primarily on national certification schemes;

c. The need for national practices to meet internationally agreed minimum standards;

d. The aim of securing the widest possible participation;

e. The need for diamond exporting, processing and importing States to act in concert;

f. The need for appropriate arrangements to help to ensure compliance, acting with respect for the sovereignty of States; and

g. The need for transparency.

Further to the terms, the Assembly would encourage the countries participating in the Kimberley Process to consider expanding the membership of the process and to move ahead with the intergovernmental negotiating process to develop detailed proposals for the envisaged international certification scheme for rough diamonds, in close collaboration with the diamond industry and taking into account the views of relevant elements of civil society. [The Kimberley Process was an initiative by the African diamond-producing countries to launch an inclusive consultation process of governments, industry and civil society to deal with the issue.]

The Assembly would request the countries participating in the Kimberley Process to present to the Assembly, no later than its fifty-sixth session, a report on progress made. It would decide to include in the provisional agenda of that session the item entitled "The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict".

The draft is sponsored by sponsored by Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.

Introduction of Draft

DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), introducing the draft resolution, said that ordinarily diamonds were a precious commodity, purchased because of their beauty. However, the trade of diamonds had an ugly side to it. No one could forget the sight of the children of Sierra Leone, missing their limbs, which were brutally hacked off by crazed killers funded on the profits of the illicit trade in conflict diamonds. This practice had also caused the displacement and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Angolan citizens by the diamond-funded UNITA rebels.

It was important to emphasize, however, that conflict diamonds consisted of about only four per cent of the total world diamond market. The legitimate trade in diamonds was critical to economic development in many countries. Thousands of families in his country and across the region owed their livelihoods to the mining and sale of legitimate diamonds.

The co-sponsors of the draft resolution, he said, firmly believed that the United Nations must take steps to address the issue of conflict diamonds. They believed this could be done through concerted international action, proving that the international community was neither powerless, nor silent on conflict diamonds. The text was the result of a process which began in Kimberley in May of this year. It evolved out of an inclusive approach by governments, industry and civil society in the diamond exporting, processing and importing states, to find solutions to the problem of conflict diamonds. The process sought to stop conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond market, and thus denying rebel movements income to finance military efforts aimed at undermining or overthrowing legitimate governments.

In developing the draft, he went on, the countries represented in the Kimberley Process had sought to create a broad yet comprehensive approach to addressing the problem of conflict diamonds. They had been mindful that both the diamond industry and governments must adopt sustainable development approaches and had been conscious of the responsibility of the diamond industry to rehabilitate the environment and infrastructure of communities that might be disturbed or interrupted where mining activities took place. The resolution acknowledged the role of conflict diamonds in fuelling conflicts and the devastating impact on peace, safety and security for all people in affected countries. Furthermore it emphasized that measures taken against conflict diamonds must be effective and pragmatic, and consistent with international law. The need to enforce the Security Council resolution was also highlighted.

Statements

RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said he felt the response to the problem of conflict diamonds had been “weak and inadequate”. Today the international community must make a new beginning. Conflict diamonds had produced much suffering, especially and most tragically in Africa. He believed governments and the diamond industry must work together. It was clear that there was a direct relationship between conflict diamonds and atrocities.

He said the United States took note of how the United Nations dealt with problems of conflict diamonds in Angola and Sierra Leone, especially Security Council resolutions to oppose sanctions leakage. After the Lomé Agreement broke down, the Council adopted resolution 1306, which put a mandatory ban on non- certified diamonds. One area not addressed, he added, was the “siphoning off” of the diamond trade, as had occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The United States considered the trade in illicit diamonds not to be an African or Asian problem, he said. On the contrary, it was a global problem, that required a global solution. His country was pleased by governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in international certification regimes. The time had come, indeed the time was overdue, for the General Assembly, the world’s parliament, to express its support for these actions. There must be a strong legitimate market in diamonds and these measures would help legitimate business, he said, citing Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa as countries relying on the diamond trade.

Equally important, he added, were nations in crisis where legitimate markets needed to be protected. The United States would work with all to achieve an international certification process for diamonds. It therefore welcomed South Africa’s strong role in sponsoring this draft resolution. In conclusion, he hoped the United Nations would send a message to all those who used diamonds to advance violence. Those people must be put out of business. The international community must not let one of the world’s most beautiful stones be sullied by its association with brutal wars.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) speaking for the European Union and associated States, said that success in combating illegal trade of this kind could not be achieved on a purely national basis. It required enhanced international cooperation in applying the rule of law. For years such trade had made it possible to finance the purchase of arms and hence to perpetuate armed conflict. Three examples of this were Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The fight against illegal diamond trafficking was a factor in preventing conflicts.

He said the search for solutions had recently progressed, thanks to the combined action of two players: the United Nations and the States of the Kimberley Process. The European Union welcomed the measures taken by the Security Council to ban trade in conflict diamonds. The big exporting and importing States, and those with a diamond industry, had undertaken to combine efforts to implement action at banning trade in conflict diamonds. Progress had been made by the Kimberley Process. He noted the adoption of a statement highlighting the contribution which the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds could play in fighting the illicit trade.

Any certification scheme, he said, would be exposed to risks of circumvention. So discussion should begin on the fight against illegal trading and traders. The possible creation of an international mechanism should be considered in order to monitor the trade in diamonds which contributed towards the financing of wars. In the framework of the United Nations, the creation of a unified expertise structure could also be considered. In the meantime, wholehearted support should be given to the sanctions committees set up by the Security Council.

Speaking as the representative of France, he said his country was of the view that conflict diamonds were on the one hand “rough diamonds which are used by rebel movements to finance their military activities, including attempts to undermine or overthrow legitimate governments." On the other hand, there were "rough diamonds originating from territory of diamond-producing countries that were under military occupation by another country". Concretely it meant, for example, that the diamonds concerned were not only those illegally produced and exported by UNITA and by the RUF in Sierra Leone, but also those illegally produced and exported in parts of the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo occupied by foreign troops.

He said France was convinced that States involved in the production, trade, transformation and use of diamonds, who participated in the Kimberley Process would be keen to deal with the problem of conflict diamonds in all aspects. Included were diamonds from rebel forces, or from looting by foreign forces.

AHMED ABOULGHEIT (Egypt) said the past period had seen a greater interest in the destructive role diamonds played in armed conflicts, and in the link between those diamonds and the flow of arms for groups attempting to overturn governments. The measures aimed at combating the illicit trade of rough diamonds, and cutting the link between that trade and the flow of arms, must not affect the legitimate diamond trade on which a number of countries depended. Those measures must run parallel with an international campaign separating the conflict diamonds and the legitimate diamonds, so that international society did not have the wrong impression that all diamonds could be considered as conflict diamonds.

If an efficient system had to be set up to combat the illegitimate trade, measures must be international, not concentrating on any particular region or continent. They must derive from a transparent international and intergovernmental process, in which all countries, as well as the diamond trade, in particular the World Diamond Council, participated on an equal footing.

He said he took note of the results of the ministerial conferences in Pretoria and London on conflict diamonds this year, in the framework of that Kimberley Process. The results of that process provided a solid ground for combating the illicit diamond trade, but participation in it should be expanded, if it were to lead to an international system to document such diamonds, and to the adoption of an international convention on the subject.

The penalties and sanctions systems in Angola and Sierra Leone must be tightened, he said. The dependence of the UNITA and other groups on diamonds, had led to providing the financing of increased military capacity of the rebels to commit the worst crimes against humanity.

PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said the people of Angola and Sierra Leone were suffering terribly from prolonged internal conflicts. They needed the continued support of the international community to help cut the link between conflicts and diamonds. Australia had implemented new customs regulations last month (on November 10) to comply with Security Council resolution 1306. Global peace and good governance could not be assured without a stable and secure Africa, with sound economic growth and effective public institutions.

She said that as a major diamond-producing country, Australia was prepared to accept the need for new control measures to address the problem of conflict diamonds. Australia’s diamond industry already operated a certification and packaging scheme, and was represented on the World Diamond Council. Her Government fully supported the self-regulating efforts of the diamond industry, and was prepared to consider introducing measures along with all other diamond- producing countries, and processing and consuming countries, to prevent international trade in conflict diamonds. Such measures should not impose undue restriction or economic burdens. Australia would also wish to ensure that any certification measures did not impede the world’s legitimate diamond trade, which should be conducted consistently with obligations and principles of the World Trade Organization.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the civil conflict in Sierra Leone had consumed the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people -– women, men and children -– and had created more refugees than there were currently from any other African country. What had recently come to international attention was the means through which groups like the RUF sustained their murderous campaigns. Diamonds, which should have been a resource in Sierra Leone’s development, had become its curse, the currency with which the rebels purchased weapons and ammunition.

He said similar scenarios were evident in Angola, and in other conflict zones, where rebels were illegally exploiting not only diamonds but also other natural resources and minerals to sustain their activities. The Security Council had so far constituted four expert panels to look into the dynamics of conflict diamonds, as well as the illegal trade in natural resources.

He noted that recently the Government of Sierra Leone had inaugurated a diamond certification scheme, which would help to assure buyers that diamonds legally exported from the country would be conflict-free. But one country, however watertight its certification regime, mattered little in preventing the trade in conflict diamonds. In Sierra Leone, he added, the rebels continued to hold the best diamond-producing areas, and they continued to smuggle out their ill-gotten gains through neighbouring countries with impunity.

He said it was vital to involve diamond producers, sellers and industry in the development of international oversight and monitoring mechanisms. It was useful to introduce a certification regime that involved all countries with legitimate diamond industries. It might be impossible to completely end the trade in illicit and conflict diamonds, but a transparent and rigorous global certification system would help.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) noted that diamonds were traditionally a symbol of love, but for many people in the world today they had become a curse, not a blessing. The sale of rough diamonds by rebel movements in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had fuelled conflicts and atrocities that had shocked and angered the international community. In recognition of that fact, the United Kingdom had proposed the draft resolution because it lay at the very core of the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Moreover, it was important to break the link between the illicit trade in rough diamonds and armed conflict, as part of the Organization’s efforts on the prevention and resolution of conflict.

He said his Government supported the Kimberley Process, launched at the initiative of South Africa, which brought together a group of key diamond producers with the diamond industry, to make recommendations on preventing the trade in conflict diamonds. He noted the meeting held in London in October, which widened the consensus reached in Pretoria by discussing the common interest in protecting the legitimate diamond industry with effective and pragmatic measures to eliminate the scourge of conflict diamonds. Thirty-six countries agreed that the international certification scheme was the way forward.

He said the United Kingdom regarded today’s draft resolution as a milestone, because it proposed that the Kimberley Process move ahead with an intergovernmental negotiating process to develop detailed measures for the envisaged international certification scheme for rough diamonds. His Government looked forward to the adoption of the draft and would continue to work to ensure that the issue of conflict diamonds was addressed by the international community. The international community should meet the target set by the resolution because, for too many people in the world, stopping the trade in conflict diamonds was a matter of life or death.

LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) thanked South Africa for introducing this important draft resolution. It was ironic that the possession of natural resources, instead of being a benefit, could become a tremendous burden. Furthermore, it was paradoxical that richness in these resources, instead of feeding society’s needs, led to more conflicts. The international community was seeking to change this by protecting legitimate resources for the good of present and future generations and cutting the link between those resources and the continuation of armed conflicts in the affected areas.

Clearly, this situation was not restricted to diamonds, but diamonds had played a central role in many conflicts in Africa, he said. Argentina was of the view that considerable progress had been achieved in only two years. In 1998, his Government had emphasized the linkage between trafficking in illegal diamonds, or “blood diamonds”, and conflicts. He was gratified by the concerted efforts of the international community, whose will had been reflected in Security Council resolutions, and Argentina hoped it would be possible to take advantage of the momentum to eradicate the problem of conflict diamonds.

JOAQUIM A.B.B. MANGUEIRA (Angola) said today’s debate was possible because the international community finally understood the concern of conflict diamonds, although the problem was limited to certain areas of Africa, such as Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although conflict diamonds constituted only 4 per cent of the total world diamond trade, the illicit trade reflected negatively on the producing countries as well as on the whole industry. The international community should join hands to fight vigorously against the problem of conflict diamonds in fuelling conflict.

Angola had been one of the first countries to understand the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict. It had denounced the phenomena that allowed the Angolan rebels to continue killing the elderly and children. Unfortunately, despite efforts of the Government to end the frightful war, there were some people whose goal it was to get rich at any price. It was time to establish a scheme at all levels -- international, regional and national -- to finish those illegal activities. That would only be possible if the international community fully implemented Security Council measures on that matter. He was sure that those efforts could be extended to other linked areas, such as freezing foreign bank accounts, as had been done with drug activities.

His country was one of the Kimberly Process Countries and, as a diamond- producing and exporting country, had taken national measures in order to regulate the production and purchase of diamonds. UNITA had lost control over all its traditional provincial strongholds, and the rebels no longer maintained a standing army capable of controlling and exploiting any significant mining regions. In that context, his Government had tried to respond to the preoccupation of the international community to prevent conflict diamonds from being produced and commercialized in Angola. It had established a “single channel” for the commercialization of diamonds. Angola was the first country to have a national certificate of origin. It had also taken measures regarding a packaging, sealing and credential system.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said his delegation had taken part in preparing the draft resolution; to come together to control the evil role of diamonds was an excellent initiative. Burkina Faso was committed, he said, not because of trade, since it neither produced, exported nor imported diamonds, but because of an interest in achieving transparency and probity in the trade. This interest followed several reports to the effect that Burkina Faso was somehow implicated in the Angolan and Sierra Leonean issues.

He said Burkina Faso also wanted to see international cooperation, because, as yet, there was no international certification of origin. No one could be accused of illicit trafficking if there were no certification mechanism.

Some countries might oppose international regulation, arguing that conflict-diamonds were only a very tiny proportion of legitimate diamonds, he said. A framework for cooperation was required, which could establish standard rules for the diamond industry. The resolution was an important step and as a co-sponsor, he appealed to the Assembly that the resolution be adopted by consensus.

SATISH C. MEHTA (India) said the majority of countries in the world had nothing to do with diamonds, nor did most diamond-producing countries face armed conflict. This problem was localized to just two or three areas. In India, which possessed nine out of 10 diamonds produced in the world, the diamond industry employed about a million people, mostly artisans and small businessmen. Nevertheless, though it was a small part of the overall diamond trade and limited to a few geographical areas, the problem of conflict diamonds still needed to be addressed. Efforts should focus on keeping these rough diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond trade, to deny financial resources to rebel movements pursuing armed conflict, and to protect the legitimate diamond industry from misguided criticism.

He said India did not import any rough diamonds from any producing country or from any country in Africa, and had taken steps to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream. The import of rough diamonds into India was monitored through a system of import licensing, and these imports came only from traditional international trading centres and not from any conflict areas. Moreover, as a measure of transparency, India published monthly import/export statistics which were easily accessible.

The principal countries engaged in the diamond industry should continue their consultations and their efforts, he said. But it was also important that arrangements did not lead to undue financial or administrative burden on governments or on the industry. In fact, some complex schemes or systems might actually end up adversely affecting the legitimate trade in diamonds. There was a danger of going against the dictum “innocent until proven guilty”; he therefore believed that an internationally agreed arrangement, based on national certification schemes and monitoring mechanisms, was the best solution. Diamonds did not kill people, he said, arms and weapons did. This simple truth must not be lost on the General Assembly.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said Canada was deeply concerned about the issue of conflict diamonds, and had worked hard in the Security Council, particularly as chair of the Angola Sanctions Committee, to hasten an end to devastating conflicts, and to the role of diamonds in fueling them. That goal, however, would not be met unless all Member States cooperated.

Major progress had been made, he said. Apart from Security Council resolutions 1173 and 1176, and the reports of the Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone and the new Monitoring Mechanism on Angola, the Governments of Angola and Sierra Leone had taken significant steps to strengthen national controls, as had a number of key trading and marketing centres. The industry had established the World Diamond Council to implement industry measures to combat the conflict diamond problem. Civil society also continued to offer key support, through its role in raising awareness and in generating political will and ideas necessary to bring about solutions. Most remarkable had been the Kimberley Process. It had brought together a cross-section of key players to begin taking practical steps towards resolving the problem.

He said the South African draft resolution would take the international community one important step further, by initiating a more comprehensive and inclusive intergovernmental process, focusing on the development of concrete proposals for action. Progress on the issue would take perseverance, cooperation, consequence and pragmatism. There was a need to go beyond diplomatic niceties to develop effective measures. He supported, in that regard, further consideration of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. The measures needed to be workable, cost-effective, fair, not unduly burdensome for industry, and informed by existing expertise, experience and best practice. As a new producer of diamonds, Canada considered that it had both a responsibility to, and an interest in, participating in international efforts to curb conflict diamonds.

ANDRE ADAM (Belgium) said Belgium entirely supported the statement made by France on behalf of the European Union. Belgium, as a member of the Kimberley Process, had participated in the negotiations on the draft resolution and was pleased with the way they proceeded, under the leadership of South Africa. This was why it was cosponsoring this resolution. On several occasions and in several forums, there had been debates on the role of the diamond industry in financing and prolonging conflicts. While the number of conflicts involving diamonds was limited, they had a global dimension, since international trade meant that diamonds could turn up on any continent.

Belgium expressed satisfaction with the work of the Kimberley Process, which provided a framework for a solution, he said. It was necessary, he continued, to maintain the momentum. He did not feel that the work would be completed with today’s debate. He called on the international community to be pragmatic and efficient in establishing an international certification system, using the experience acquired from Angola and Sierra Leone. Belgium was determined to find solutions because the problem of conflict diamonds was global. He urged States to take measures at the national level today. Further, Belgium invited the diamond industry to lift the discrete veil and apply more transparency. To this end, it had published statistics on trade in diamonds, and it encouraged other commercial centres to follow this example, he concluded.

IBRAHIM KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said the meeting had two purposes -- to consider first the evolving trends in control of the global diamond industry, and then, the dismantling of trade links between the illicit exchange of rough "conflict" diamonds for armaments.

He said the re-legitimizing of trade in diamonds had begun in July for his country, when the Security Council had banned the export of diamonds, tightened the arms embargo and requested the Government to put a certificate of origin scheme into operation.

With the approval of the Security Council Committee, he said, the first set of diamonds under the new Certificate had been shipped in October. The Government had also reinforced the need for all exporters to comply with the requirement to make only authorized shipments in tamper-free parcels. Now the international community must put mechanisms in place for the global diamond trade.

He said the crisis engulfing Sierra Leone, Angola and other diamond- producing countries had been characterized as a long-festering ethnic struggle mirrored in elements such as socio-economic inequities, oppression of minorities and suppression of human rights. The crisis was, in fact, neither insurrection nor civil war.

"It has been and remains plain thuggery", he said, and it had been intensified by looting and greed that was aided from outside. There had been nine years of banditry and horrific brutality, resulting from the complex, entrenched relationship between exploitative systems of financial intermediation and resource management, poverty and the “spectacular mysterious wealth of the diamond trade”.

He said organized crime in the guise of smuggling, gun running and money laundering had gained control of the informal diamond-mining sector and had destabilized all facets of the society. An entire nation's posterity had been robbed and a generation of drug-crazed hooligans had risen up, toting weapons and leaving abject misery in their wake. Ironically, the phenomenon had led to the country's classification as the poorest of the poor. Diamonds certainly were not the best friends of the women of Sierra Leone who had lost lives or limbs, as a direct result of illicit proceeds from the sale of conflict diamonds.

He welcomed the outcome of the Ministerial Meeting on diamonds in Pretoria, the London Inter-Governmental Conference on conflict diamonds and the African initiative that had led to the Kimberley Process. Sierra Leone would commit its resources to the global adoption of a workable certification scheme.

LEUTLWESTE MMUALEFE (Botswana) said Botswana was the world's largest producer of gemstones. As such, diamonds were at the core of its industrial production and economic development. The mining and sale of diamonds, coupled with prudent economic management and a commitment to a democratic society, had led to modest but worthy achievements, with tremendous socio-economic strides for the people. His delegation, therefore, hastened to reject the argument that all diamonds were produced primarily in -- and to fuel conflicts in -- Africa. Conflict diamonds were not just an "African problem". An illicitly produced diamond became a conflict diamond when it had been transacted to facilitate the activities of rebel movements, he said. The global ramifications of such actions could not be denied.

He said Botswana had found it prudent to join hands with all diamond- producing, processing, exporting and importing countries, through the Kimberley Process, to devise workable means to deny conflict diamonds access to the marketplace. That would require the involvement of governments, the diamond industry and civil society. His delegation welcomed other important initiatives taken to address the issue by the Government of Sierra Leone and other countries. He noted that Namibia had offered to convene a workshop of leading diamond- producing countries to consider technical aspects on an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. He also praised the creation of the World Diamond Council.

He said the problem of conflict diamonds required all diamond-producing and exporting countries to act in concert. Member States should fully implement all Security Council measures targeting the link between the trade in conflict diamonds and supplies of weapons, fuel or other prohibited materials to rebel movements.

ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said that promoting the development of Africa was one of principal goals of the world community today. One of the elements of those efforts should be concrete work to neutralize the forms of financing of the conflicts there, which cost many thousands of lives, and undermined peace and stability. The Russian Federation called for decisive action to cut off the illegal trade in raw diamonds, which was financing conflicts, particularly, in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It had taken an active part in developing possible measures in that area. The starting point had been the appeal in the final communiqué of the Group of Eight summit to convene an international conference to review and submit to the United Nations proposals to eradicate the link between the illegal trade in diamonds and armed conflict. On that basis, his country had accepted the invitation by the Kimberley Process to join the dialogue.

The way to resolve the problem should be simple, concise and break the link between the trade in raw diamonds and the financing of attempts by rebellious groups to overthrow governments, he said. The world community needed to cut off the arrival of conflict diamonds on the international market, but must, at the same time, protect legal participants in the diamond trade. Any hasty actions in such a sensitive area could lead to the destabilization of the diamond market and damage the economies of the producer countries. A system of certification should be introduced, which would be based on certification of origin, databases and systems of control, which would respond to international agreed parameters. Russia was prepared to give interested States constructive assistance in that area. The resolution of the problem of conflict diamonds would strengthen peace, prevent new conflicts from arising, and improve conditions for Africa’s successful economic and social development.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) stressed that the problem of rough diamonds was not only an African problem. It was a global problem that affected not only the diamond-producing countries but also those that processed, exported and imported diamonds. It had potential implications for the entire diamond industry and for governments worldwide. It was against this background, and in the spirit of global partnership, that Namibia sought a solution to this problem including through enlisting support for the draft resolution before the Assembly.

Namibia was a key player in the world diamond industry, he continued, contributing about 8 per cent of world gem diamond production. It, therefore, supported every effort to ensure that the image of the global diamond industry was not tarnished. An independent international certification scheme for rough diamonds would go a long way to resolving the problem of illicit trade in rough diamonds and its link to armed conflict. It was for this reason, among others, that Namibia had offered to host a workshop to look into technical aspects pertaining to such a certification scheme.

OLUSEGUN APATA (Nigeria) said it was ironic that a gift of nature so beautiful and precious as the diamond had become an instrument for destabilization and insecurity. According to a report from De Beers, diamonds from African war zones accounted for 10 to 15 per cent of world supply. While market manipulation guaranteed high prices, the portability and anonymity of diamonds had made them the currency of choice for predators with guns in modern Africa.

He said that responsible mining and management of diamonds, as in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, could contribute to development and stability. But where governments faced difficulties, and where rebels were pitiless and borders were porous, as in the case of Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, those beautiful gems could easily be turned to agents of slave labour, murder, dismemberment, mass homelessness, wholesale economic collapse, chaos and political instability. Responsible members of the international community could not stand by and allow that orgy of violence to continue.

He said efforts to address the issue must take into consideration all concerned parties involved in producing, processing and exporting, including facilitators for illegal export, as well as the importing countries. Measures should be effective and pragmatic, and consistent with international law. Perpetrators who used diamonds to fuel conflicts, and their collaborators, should be brought to justice in accordance with international law.

MISHECK MUCHETWA (Zimbabwe) said that responding to the Panel of Experts Report on Angola earlier this year, Zimbabwe had submitted to the Security Council that the failure to account for the presence of economic agendas in conflict had, at times, seriously undermined international efforts to consolidate fragile peace agreements. He wished to reiterate that the true cause of the civil wars raging in some African countries was not so much the loud discourse of grievance, but the silent force of greed. In the case of Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an abundance of natural resources that included diamonds had become a curse. It was the availability of these diamonds that had spawned violent conflict by providing incentives for rebel groups to form to capture loot, which then sustained their activities.

Zimbabwe wished to remind the Member States that a primary commodity like diamonds presented several advantages to rebels. They were a generic product, thus their origin could easily be concealed, and their marketing did not require complicated processes, as was the case with manufactured goods. It was in this context that the importance of the draft resolution became apparent. Since the extra-legal mercantilist basis of the trade in conflict diamonds was contingent on the availability of an external market, exporting and importing countries should find ways to improve cooperation in law enforcement. This draft resolution could be one such instrument.

JOSEPH MUTABOBA (Rwanda) said that conflict diamonds constituted a global problem, but he did not feel that the search for safeguards was sufficient. Action was needed, not resolutions. The facts showed that diamonds were not being traded as barter, against beans, for example. Rather, they were traded against heavy weapons and hard currency. The reason conflict diamonds existed, was that there were those who needed them, and those who thirsted for them.

He said Rwanda felt there was a long way to go to solve the problem of conflict diamonds. He wondered who was responsible for the exploitation and for the smuggling. Rwanda was in favour of the proposed certification regime. He said it was a global problem which needed a global response.

PIERRE HELG (Observer for Switzerland) said diamonds had fueled some of the worst conflicts that the world had witnessed. Switzerland therefore attached great importance to breaking the cause and effect, by which the illicit trade in diamonds brought with it the trade in arms. Because of the place that it occupied in the international trade in precious gems, Switzerland was very conscious of its responsibilities. It had implemented the Security Council resolutions concerning Angola and Sierra Leone, and had collaborated with the United Nations expert groups engaged in the fight against all forms of diamond transactions linked to conflict. Furthermore, Switzerland was applying measures that went beyond what was required by United Nations resolutions. In particular, it was monitoring with vigilance the origin and movements of rough diamonds on the market.

He said his country, was also supported the introduction of an international certification system for rough diamonds. This system should be characterized by its efficiency, selectivity and applicability -- efficiency, in the sense that it should combat all illegal traffic, corruption and fraud; selectivity, in that the fight against illicit traffic should not be at the expense of legal trade; and applicability, in that the system should lead not to additional administrative obstacles, but to simple and pragmatic measures.

Action on Draft

The Assembly was informed that more Member States had joined as co- sponsors of the draft resolution: Angola, Australia, Austria, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, United Republic of Tanzania, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution (document A/55/L.52) on the role of diamonds in fueling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts.

Speaking after the Assembly action, Mr. KUMALO (South Africa) expressed thanks for the adoption of the resolution. He appreciated that some delegations had difficulty with parts of the resolutions, but it was a beginning and he hoped they would stay with the process. He thanked those who had worked on the

resolution. He said the result could not have been achieved without the contribution of his neighbours, Namibia, Angola and Botswana.

ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) thanked the Assembly for having responded favourably to the request by the United Kingdom to add the item on the agenda, South Africa for its patience and skilful handling of the negotiations, and the experts who had worked for three weeks on the text of the resolution. He said he did not doubt that the resolution adopted was a further step to break the link between armed conflict and rough diamonds.

The Assembly concluded the consideration of the item.

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For information media. Not an official record.