Chairman’s Letter to USA Today

USA TODAY – Copyright 2001 Gannett Company, Inc.

January 31, 2001

A USA TODAY article accurately described problems to be overcome in the international effort to halt the pernicious trade in “conflict diamonds” (“Dealing with rogue diamonds: Nations seek ways to identify legal stones,” Life, Thursday). Profits from this illicit practice finance violence and rebellion in some African countries. Many interested parties – including the diamond industry — oppose this criminal commerce.

I suggest USA TODAY’s readers also learn of the initiatives being taken by the diamond industry, information the articles failed to convey.

The World Diamond Council (WDC) was formed by the industry in mid-2000. In that short period, we have helped construct a pilot program to monitor exports of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to Belgium. This “certificate of origin” program seeks to ensure that only rough diamonds extracted in government-controlled areas and properly recorded are exported.

In London, on Jan. 17, WDC members approved a more ambitious effort. We drafted model legislation, now being proposed to the U.S. Congress, that would have two effects. First, it would ban the importation of diamonds from countries that fail to subscribe to a workable monitoring program. Second, it would authorize the president to initiate negotiations with relevant countries — in which diamonds are extracted, processed or imported — to establish global-monitoring standards.

Since the United States imports about half the diamonds currently produced, the U.S. government has the opportunity and the obligation to lead in this effort. And while it is very unusual for any industry to seek government regulation, we believe eliminating the blight of conflict diamonds demands unusual action.

Eli Izhakoff, Chairman