South Africa to Ask for International Gem Certification
The New York Times reported on November 30, 2000 that South Africa plans to ask all nations on Friday to back an international certification system for gems. Ambassador Dumisana Kumalo of South Africa will introduce a resolution in the 189-member General Assembly of the United Nations to get universal approval of the certification system. He is concerned not only because diamonds are fueling civil wars among other Africans, but also that adverse publicity and calls for boycotts will hurt its own diamond-mining industry.
In two weeks, publication is expected of an expert panel’s report to the Security Council on the illegal trade in what are called “conflict diamonds.” Only four percent of the world’s diamonds are conflict diamonds, and ninety-six percent are prosperity diamonds. To an overwhelming extent the industry is fine and the companies are doing what they are supposed to do. Only a few rebel leaders aided by some corrupt government officials and a ring of “kingpins” running the trade are the problem.
Botswana and Namibia have joined South Africa in offering to set up a technical process for certifying diamonds, based on standards already established by various nations. The United Stated, Britain, Israel, and Belgium, among other countries where gemstones are worded and sold in significant quantities, are backing the South African General Assembly resolution. The Russians and Indians are resisting the resolution. They are not very happy about international standards and mechanisms because they are saying this is not a problem in their part of the world and do not think they should be subjected to these international standards. Kumalo is saying to them, “This is beginning to happen on a lot of U.N. issues; we have to keep coming back saying that the U.N. is a global institution and the problem with the conflict diamonds are global problems; they’re not just African problems.”
The goal of the certification system is to have a way in which those who buy diamonds can be able to tell that they are purchasing good diamonds and not the conflict diamonds. Mr. Kumalo said, “You can’t tell the origin of a diamond even if you are Tiffany’s, so we want to protect people like that.” The fallout from lost sales would be acute in southern Africa, the world’s largest source of rough diamonds. The livelihoods of thousands of South African families depend on mining. Without mining, they would face really serious economic consequences.
I think the United Nations should make the 189 members of the General Assembly go along with this. Thousands of people are being killed by funds generated from conflict diamonds. I also believe certification would increase the value of diamonds, which would be good for South Africa and other countries mining diamonds, and the consumers who purchase the diamonds.
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