Diamond Industry Must Not Whitewash Blood Diamonds

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia has reiterated its commitment to protect the integrity of its diamond industry by ensuring that this natural resource is not contaminated by what is globally known as “blood diamonds” (diamonds from war-torn countries). Diamonds in some parts of the world have been used to fuel conflict, hence the expression “blood diamonds”. Namibian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr Kaire Mbuende, said at a plenary meeting on “the Role of Diamonds in Fuelling Conflicts: breaking the Link between illicit transactions of rough diamonds and armed conflicts as a contribution to the prevention and settlement of conflicts” held in New York recently, that Namibia supports this resolution as a sign of its commitment to international peace and stability, particularly conflict-prevention. The issue of “blood diamonds” has once again become topical, with some experts arguing that the situation calls for drastic measures to stem the negative impact emanating from the current campaign or else repercussions on the continent’s economies will become hard to bear. “We cannot allow one of our most important industries to undermine our commitment to international peace and stability. We also want to ensure that our industry does not whitewash blood diamonds”, Mbuende said. He added that the diamond industry is too important for the development of Namibia and that its integrity and long-term sustainability have to be ensured. To ensure transparency in the industry, Namibia joined the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme which guarantees transparency in the marketing of diamonds. This global initiative is aimed at routing out the evil of trading in diamonds to fund conflict. It ensures that a certificate accompanies diamonds exported and imported between countries and, in return, consumers are confident that their diamonds are from conflict-free countries. “We are happy that this cartel has been growing and that most of the rough diamonds traded internationally today are of conflict-free origin”, he said. Kimberley Process membership now comprises 44 states, and the European Community as a single participant represents all 25 member states of the EU. Countries such as Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo were previously embroiled in conflict but, with peace attained, these countries today use diamonds for the promotion of development rather than for fuelling conflicts. Mbuende commended Botswana for leading the Kimberly Process in 2006, adding that during its tenure many positive developments had taken place. At the annual plenary session of the Kimberley Process held in Gaborone, Botswana last month, the Kimberly Process chair’s authority was transferred to the European Union, while India took the vice-chairmanship position for 2007. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was launched in 2002 by a coalition of governments, civil society organizations and the diamond industry in response to the role of diamonds in funding some of the most devastating civil wars in Africa during the past decade. Mbuende reiterated that Namibia would give its full cooperation to the newly-elected chairmanship and vice-chairmanship to ensure that their mandate is crowned with success. Sixty-five percent of the world’s diamonds are produced in Africa, and revenues collected from this sector have helped fund different developmental programmes such as the construction of health facilities. In southern Africa, the industry employs about 28ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 people. In Namibia, diamonds account for 42 percent of the country’s export revenue, five percent (5%) of government’s revenue and 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Currently, the cumulative value for diamonds to the African economy is in excess of US$8.4 billion per year.