|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY BOTSWANA PRESIDENT ON DIAMOND CERTIFICATION PROCESS
There was overwhelming evidence that introduction of the Certification Scheme under the Kimberley Process in 2003 had had a positive impact on reducing the trade in conflict diamonds, the President of Botswana, Festus G. Mogae, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning. However, he added, challenges remained, including the mining of diamonds in northern Côte d’Ivoire, which was under rebel control.
The Kimberley Process is a unique tripartite arrangement between producing and importing governments, non-governmental organizations and the diamond industry, whose main objective is to exclude conflict diamonds from the legitimate trade. According to President Mogae’s statement to the Assembly, which was distributed in the room, since its inception, the Process has enabled a closer interaction between its participants, observers, applicants and various organizations, providing a valuable platform to consolidate the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and explore ways and means of curbing the flow of illicit diamonds.
Responding to correspondents’ questions following his presentation of the annual report on the Process to the General Assembly, President Mogae said that the document contained information on the progress achieved in 2006, the main weaknesses observed and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Process in curbing the trade in conflict diamonds. The Process had held its annual plenary in Gaborone, Botswana, at the beginning of November, identifying the main challenges faced by the Certification Scheme and the strategies to address them. The Chair of the Kimberley Process this year, Botswana, was going to hand over the Chairmanship to Czech Republic in 2007, which would be representing the European Commission.
President Mogae said that the Kimberley Process remained open on a global, non-discriminatory basis, to all countries and regional organizations, willing and able to fulfil its requirements. In 2006, New Zealand and Bangladesh had joined the Scheme, bringing the total number of participants to 47, representing 71 countries. The 25 European Union member States are represented by the European Commission as a single participant. With its current membership, the Process now covered the vast majority of all States involved in trade in rough diamonds. Some 11 countries, including Cape Verde, Congo, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Liberia, Mali, Mexico, Swaziland, Tunisia and Turkey, had expressed interest in joining. The participants ensured that they would take measures to ascertain that imported or exported diamonds were not from conflict sources and provide statistics as to the volume, value and source of imports.
To a request to comment on some non-governmental organizations’ assertion that, even with certification, it was impossible to “100 per cent ascertain” that traded diamonds were not “blood diamonds”, he said that, before the introduction of the Certification Scheme, conflict diamonds were reported to constitute up to 4 per cent of global production. According to the Kimberley Process report, with the Scheme in place, some infringements still took place, but now they amounted to less than 1 per cent.
The problem of diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire was not new, but it continued to plague the Kimberley Process, President Mogae said. The export of diamonds from that country was banned by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations and the Kimberley Process. The collective resolve of the international community was needed to address the problem, and the report recommended new measures in that regard, including the analysis of statistics and efforts to plug any possible loopholes.
Responding to a question, he said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been suspended from participation in the Kimberley Process last year, because of infringements. Now that the elections had taken place and technical assistance was available, he hoped the country would be able to reorganize and reinforce its internal controls to address the problem. The issue in the first place had been the Government’s inability to control the situation in the country. It was badly in need of assistance, to be able to become an active participant in the Kimberley Process. The international community, the United Nations and the African Union had a vested interest in re-establishing law and order and making sure that democracy took root, so that the country’s vast resources could be exploited in an orderly fashion for the benefit of its citizens.
To another question, he said that conflicts were not caused by natural resources, but when political, economic and social circumstances led to a breakdown in the rule of law, those resources could be misused. Diamonds were a valuable resource, and clean diamonds continued to make an enormous contribution to the economic development of many countries. For that reason, it was important to prevent and resolve conflicts and create the conditions for peaceful development.
Asked to provide an assessment of the impact of the Process in recent years, he said that the Kimberley Process was not just another “social club” and he was satisfied that progress had been made. The peer review mechanism, the quarterly statistical submissions and annual reporting by participants were major tools for monitoring its implementation. This year, 34 countries had invited review visits by technical experts. That compared with 19 for the same period last year. Review visits were increasingly seen as not only part of the long-term implementation process, but also as tools for technical assistance, thus, serving the dual purpose of monitoring and support.
What could be done to stop the illicit trade in diamonds by countries outside the Kimberley Process? a correspondent asked. President Mogae replied that the best strategy was to ostracise the violators and ensure that no diamonds from those countries were sold through the known channels. The Process provided the mechanism to ensure that diamonds from suspect sources, such as Côte d’Ivoire, could be stopped and confiscated. However, there was a distinction between conflict and illicit diamonds, because some illicit diamonds did not come from conflict sources.
He added that, in Botswana, some diamonds could be stolen, for example, making them illicit, but they were not conflict diamonds. Botswana owed its advances in development to the exploitation of minerals, and some 33 per cent of its gross domestic product, and about 75 per cent of export earnings came from diamonds. Those revenues were used to develop schools, health facilities and physical infrastructure.
Asked if tax incentives would be useful in curbing the illicit diamond trade, he said that, by its very nature, taxation was based on proper evaluation of documented activities. Conflict diamonds were outside the scope of such activities.
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