AFRICA: Campaign launched on diamond trade [19991004]

AFRICA: Campaign launched on diamond trade [19991004]

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Embargoed: 01.00 GMT Sunday 3rd October 1999


A group of European organizations1 today launched a campaign to alert the public to the US$ 42 billion diamond trade's shameful secret which is that diamonds have been funding rebel armies across Africa. "Most people would be horrified to learn that their diamond jewellery had financed the purchase of landmines or guns in one of Africa's brutal conflicts," said Alex Yearsley of Global Witness.

This has been happening throughout the 1990s with diamonds originating from the war-torn countries of Angola2, Sierra Leone3 and Liberia4, being sold in jewellery shops worldwide5. These conflicts have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the maiming of thousands of women and children by landmines and the displacement of millions of refugees. Despite this the trade has failed to put any controls in place to ensure that their diamonds have not funded the purchase of weapons for rebel armies.

Fatal Transactions are calling on the public and other interested organisations to ask the diamond trade to implement effective controls to ensure that diamonds do not fund rebel armies in Africa. Consumers have the right to expect that their diamonds do not fund conflict. The campaign recommends they ask companies such as De Beers6 what controls they will introduce to ensure that these conflict diamonds do not reach the market place.

This campaign is not anti-diamond but it is anti-war. Diamond revenue can bring enormous benefit to a country's economy if transparently controlled such as in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa where diamond revenue has funded economic growth and stability.

It is an hypocrisy that these diamonds, marketed as an eternal symbol of love and beauty, end up for sale in London, Antwerp, New York and Milan. "As we approach the millennium it is incredible that there are no meaningful controls in place to ensure that diamonds do not fund conflict," said Yearsley.

Contact Global Witness Tel:+ 44 171 272 6731 Fax:+ 44 171 272 9425 Website: <http://www.oneworld/>http://www.oneworld/

NOTES TO EDITORS: 1. Fatal Transactions is a consumer campaign consisting of four international human rights organizations. Global Witness are a UK based investigative human rights and environment ngo which has built up a reputation for its investigations and lobby work on the illegal timber trade in Cambodia and the way in which that has funded conflict. Medico International are a German based social medical human rights organization working in 15 countries. They were a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and a Nobel Prize Winner. Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, with 35,000 members are the leading Africa human rights organization in the Netherlands. Novib are a leading pan-European development organization operating globally in over 30 countries. They are a member of the Oxfam family. 2. Angola:Between 1992-1997 500,000 died and Unita earned US$3.7 billion in illegal diamond sales. 3. Sierra Leone. Between 1991-1999 50,000 died and US$200 million of diamonds a year were illegally exported. 4. Liberia:Between 1989-1997 150,000 died and millions were lost in illegal diamond revenue. 5. The global diamond industry was worth US$42 billion in 1998, with diamond jewellery sales being worth US$21billion. 6. De Beers who control 70% of rough gem diamonds and 50% of mined production are ideally placed to implement these controls throughout the industry. Their Diamond Promotion Service can be contacted on
+ 44 (0)171 404 4444. Consumers can also contact the London Diamond Bourse on +44 (0) 171 404 4022 and the British Jewellers Association on +44 (0)121 237 1110/1112.

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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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