India wants renewed vigil against ‘conflict diamonds’

June 17th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  


New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) The process to eliminate “conflict diamonds”, which fund bloody rebel movements in some countries, is being somewhat frustrated by fake certificates, India told a global diamond conference here Tuesday. “Our vigil is not over. And we must continue to be alert and active,” Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai told the annual conference on the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme (KPCS) here. India is its current chair.

“The guns are becoming increasingly silent, but we must be alive to the fact that several fragile situations exist,” he told the delegates from 34 out of 74 countries that are members of the Kimberly Process.

Under the initiative of the United Nations, KPCS seeks to ensure that only those diamonds that are sold by legitimate entities - as opposed to rebel groups - enter the global market. (See Fact Sheet below)

“We must also find solution to the problem of fake KP certificates. It undermines the very core of what KPCS wants to achieve. The problem must be addressed.”

Pillai said India’s diamond industry, which registered export of over $13 billion last fiscal, was one of the biggest success stories, even though it was the IT industry that gets more publicity.

He said the diamond industry here provided jobs to over one million people and had a 60-percent share in the world’s polished diamond industry by value and about 82 percent by volume.

Representatives from 34 countries are participating in the three-day conference, aimed at eliminating conflict or “blood” diamonds. India, which became its chair for a year beginning Jan 1 is hosting the conference for the first time.

Some of the key participating nations are Australia, the US, the UAE, Canada, Congo, Israel, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, Russia, China, Britain, Romania, Brazil, and Tanzania.

Fact sheet on Kimberly process - curbing conflict diamonds

What: The Kimberley Process is an initiative of governments, industry and civil society to stem the flow of conflict diamonds or blood diamonds that are used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments.

Why: Trade in these illicit precious stones has fuelled decades of devastating conflicts in countries such as Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

When: The genesis of the process is in a meeting in May 2000 among South African diamond producing nations in Kimberley, South Africa. The UN General Assembly then adopted a resolution in December to free the world of conflict diamonds, and following that, the process came into force in 2003.

Process: The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as “conflict-free”. Procuring diamonds from bona fide sources ensures this, accompanied by a certificate. The process has 48 members, representing 74 countries.

Success: Diamond experts estimate that conflict diamonds now represent only a fraction of one percent of the international trade in diamonds, compared to estimates of up to 15 percent in the 1990s. For instance, some $125 million worth of diamonds were legally exported from Sierra Leone in 2006, as against almost none at the end of the 1990s, even though mining and prospecting continued in full force.

India’s Role: The country, a founder member, is the chair for the process for 2008. Namibia will be the next chair. India is the sixth in succession to hold the chair after South Africa, Canada, Russian Federation, Botswana and European Commission. New Delhi is hosting the 5th Intersession meeting of the process Tuesday and Wednesday.

Indian diamond industry: Nine out of every 10 rough diamonds in the world are cut and polished in India, employing one million people directly. The country exported cut and polished diamonds worth $13.36 billion in 2007-08 - registering a 36.8 percent growth over the previous year.

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