Conflict Diamond Issue Sees Progress

The industry has heard this before, but this time it looks as if the conflict diamond issue really may be on its way to a conclusion.

The Kimberley Process—the international coalition of nations crafting a rough diamond certification system—recently settled most of its outstanding issues during a meeting in Ottawa. The system, which is scheduled to be in place by November of this year, still must be ratified by the United Nations.

“Things are on their way to being finished,” says Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council, the industry’s representative to the Process. “But there is still much that needs to be done. The devil is in the details, and this is not something that can be solved overnight.”

Meanwhile, a new conflict diamonds bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate—and it leaves the industry in a knotty position.

The industry had been pushing a different bill, The Clean Diamond Trade Act, which passed the House overwhelmingly and represents a compromise between the Bush administration and the bill’s House sponsors. Officials worry that unless the House and Senate versions match, the bill will die in a House-Senate conference.

David Field, press secretary for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the sponsors of the Senate legislation, says that Sen. Durbin felt “the House bill was merely a shadow of what it was. With the news that conflict diamonds have been linked to terrorist groups, it’s important that this be stopped.”

The Senate bill includes provisions for polished stones and diamond jewelry, while the bill that passed the House deals only with rough. “We feel that’s a big loophole right there,” Field says.

The World Diamond Council sent out a statement “welcoming” the bill, which also is sponsored by Sens. Mike Dewine (R-Ohio) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.)

“We’re applauding Sen. Durbin for having introduced the bill, because it restarts the process in the Senate,” said Matthew A. Runci, head of the WDC legislative committee. “We are looking to the Bush administration to help to work through the differences in this bill and the House bill.”

The statement, however, stopped short of an actual endorsement of the bill, as did a statement from the NGO-led “U.S. Conflict Diamonds Coalition.” At press time, industry officials were still reviewing its provisions.