Skip to main content

Conflict Diamonds

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his estimate is of the proportion of conflict diamonds reaching European markets. [110746]

There is no definitive figure for rough diamonds sold illegally to fund civil conflict. Industry analysts estimated that, during the time of the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Angola, these diamonds accounted for some 4 per cent. of the world trade in rough diamonds. With the establishment of peace in both countries, that estimate has been revised down to less than 2 per cent.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) representations he has received from and (b) discussions he has had with the Democratic Republic of Congo on diamond smuggling in the Central African Republic. [111331]

Foreign Office officials attending the Kimberley Process plenary session in Johannesburg from 28–30 April held extensive discussions with the head of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) delegation. DRC officials explained the problems their country continued to face, in view of the improving but still difficult internal situation and the activities of their immediate neighbours, in particular in relation to the removal of rough diamonds from the DRC. In response the UK delegation underlined the need to enhance the transparency and monitoring provisions of the Kimberley Process certification scheme in order to highlight trade anomalies and possible illegal practices.The plenary session resulted in agreement on the detail of the regular exchange of statistical data and on the screening of all members and applicants to ensure their laws and regulations meet the minimum common standards required by the scheme, two helpful initiatives on transparency and monitoring. The meeting also agreed to send a specific monitoring mission to the Central African Republic in the near future in order to assess compliance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Belgian Government on Belgium's annual import of diamonds from the Central African Republic. [111341]

Foreign Office officials have had regular contact with their Belgian, French and European Commission counterparts over the situation in the Central African Republic following events there on 15 March. In particular, the European Community made it clear to other members of the Kimberley Process that in the immediate aftermath of the coup in Bangui the Kimberley Process should temporarily withdraw recognition of the CAR Kimberley certificate, thereby effectively suspending all exports of rough diamonds from that country.The Kimberley Process has since agreed to lift the suspension, but only in exchange for agreement to send a monitoring mission to determine whether the controls exercised in the CAR meet the minimum common standards required by the Kimberley certification scheme. A member of the Foreign Office's Kimberly implementation unit will be part of that mission.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the Central African Republic's (a) annual production of diamonds and (b) annual export of diamonds. [111343]

Although there are no recent export figures available, we understand that the Central African Republic, before the change in government in mid-March, was reporting exports of rough diamonds worth approximately $ 100 million per year, most to Belgium. The authorities in Bangui have reportedly suspended the licences of diamond operators in the country, pending their review and re-issuing.Meanwhile the Kimberley Process will send a monitoring mission to the Central African Republic in the near future to determine whether the internal controls regulating the diamond industry meet the minimum common standards set by the Kimberley certification scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with President George W. Bush regarding measures to combat the trade in illegal conflict diamonds. [111344]

FCO officials have made several representations in Washington about the need for a US legal base for implementing the Kimberley Process certification scheme for rough diamonds, the principal international tool for tackling conflict diamonds, and for effective interim domestic measures. We were pleased that President Bush signed into law, on 25 April the Clean Diamond Trade Act. This has strengthened compliance with the scheme and will encourage many other countries hoping to be part of the Kimberley Process to ensure their legislation, regulations, rules and procedures are completed as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with compliant participant countries in the Kimberley process regarding other participant countries who have broken agreements on the trade of conflict diamonds. [111345]

The Kimberley Process certification scheme met in plenary session in Johannesburg from 28–30 April to discuss, among other things, compliance issues. The meeting produced agreement in several areas, including the establishment of an internal committee to ensure that all current and future members of the Kimberley Process have adopted laws, regulations, rules and procedures that meet the minimum common standards set by the scheme.The meeting also agreed to send a monitoring mission to the Central African Republic, following the coup d'etat on 15 March, to check that the internal controls required to meet the scheme's standards remain effective. A separate Kimberley Process mission to Liberia will take place if requested by the United Nations under the terms of current UN Security Council resolutions on Liberia.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of international measures to break the link between the trade of rough diamonds and armed conflict. [111347]

The Kimberley Process certification scheme on the trade in rough diamonds is an international agreement adopted last November by 45 governments, the European Community, representatives of civil society and the World Diamond Council. It requires its members to ensure that it produces, exports and imports only rough stones certified by member governments as free of conflict diamonds. Since its adoption a further 25 countries have applied to join, making the Kimberley Process a truly inclusive scheme, embracing all diamond producers and major trading and processing states.Implementation of the scheme began on 1 January 2003. At its first review meeting in Johannesburg from 28–30 April, the members of the Kimberley Process agreed further measures to increase effective implementation and to ensure consistent compliance with the minimum common standards laid down in the scheme. Initial results are very encouraging, helped by peace processes in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. A further more detailed assessment will take place at the next Kimberley meeting in October.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the annual global diamond trade he estimates is made up of conflict diamonds. [111348]

Industry analysts estimate that, following the cessation of hostilities in Sierra Leone and in Angola, less than 2 per cent. of the world's trade in rough diamonds is made up of conflict diamonds, that is stones sold illegally to fund civil war.