November 09, 2006

Has UN + NGO activity achieved anything? Will a film change anything?

- UN cautions against placing additional sanctions on Liberia could worsen its its economic-situation
- imposing arms, diamonds and travel sanctions on Liberian govt. for its alleged support of rebel movements in Sierra Leone and Guinea
- The sanctions intended to prevent Sierra Leonean diamonds from being smuggled into Liberia were causing legitimately mined Liberian diamonds to be smuggled into Sierra Leone

- 2003 – Mineral Resources Minister Mohamed Swarray-Deen: the initiative, dubbed the Kimberley – helped to legitimise the industry in SL
- The Kimberley process - designed to distinguish between legally and illegally-mined diamonds—has been put in place by the Sierra Leonean government and buttressed by a United Nations embargo on all non-certified diamonds emanating from the west African country
- David Crane, the US prosecutor for the Special Court on Sierra Leone – accusses Liberian President Charles Taylor among others of harboring terrorists from the Middle East, including al Qaeda and Hezbollah
- Locals in the diamond-rich area of Kono, where the highest number of legal mining licenses have been distributed, say illicit prospecting is rife involving about three times the number of the 435 registered licence holders.

- SL diamonds are high quality – compared to industrial diamonds which cannot make jewelry
- govt. describes as an organised crime sindicate – diamonds become the property of whoever has the monopoly at the time
- The conflict diamond issue first came to the public’s attention in 1998 when a small, London-based non-governmental organization (NGO) named Global Witness released a report titled A Rough Trade – detailed the way in which Angolan rebels were smuggling diamonds into the international markets
- Sierra Leone is currently home to 17,000 UN peacekeepers, the largest such force in the world.
- Other NGO’s have also been able to affect policy, including Oxfam America, Global Policy Forum, and Amnesty International
- organizations such as the International Crisis Group have issued lengthy reports on countries at war, including Angola and Sierra Leone
-Kimberley Process is the new set of standards which approximately 70 countries have agreed to be part of. It is a certification scheme that seeks to track diamonds from the mine to the retail counter by using a certificate system. It is endorsed by the United Nations and went into effect on January 1, 2003
- Many scholars and NGO’s such as ActionAid are skeptical of the ability to trace an item as easily smuggled as diamonds

- Movie ‘Blood Diamonds’ – set in 1999 Sierra Leone – rebels who cut off the limbs of villagers to scare them into working in the mines
- September: the World Diamond Council – a trade group – took out full-page ads in 10 newspapers. They touted the Kimberley Process, a three-year-old, U.N.-backed certification system designed to keep blood diamonds off the market
- Allan Mayer: “One of the things about big movies is they don’t come out of the blue,” he says. “You see them coming a long way off. So, what you want to do in a situation like that is start planning your response a year, 18 months before the movie comes out. Start talking about the issues that matter to you in a context that has nothing to do with the movie.”
- Director Zwick: number of diamonds on the international market has been reduced since 1999 – but is still significant
- Alex Yearsley works for Global Witness, a human rights group: “At the height of the blood diamond issue, when it was on the front pages - pictures of Sierra Leonean children having had their arms cut off - there was no discernable downsizing in diamond sales,” Yearsley says

- 2001: UN Security Council has imposed a worldwide ban on the export of diamonds from Sierra Leone
- the British Ambassador at the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said the system would make it more expensive and more difficult for traders to deal in illicit diamonds from Sierra Leone
- The measures include an international certification scheme, sanctions against rogue dealers and plans to ensure the diamonds are not traded for arms.

- Conflict diamonds are a short-term problem for Sierra Leone, which will end with the war? Not sure about this

- history of diamonds in SL 1935-2000
- By the time a diamond rush began in the 1950s, the government gave up policing the diamond districts. Foreign investors provided their own security
- In 1968, populist Siaka Stevens became prime minister, bringing the country to one-party rule. Stevens was the first to officially connect the diamond mines to political power and profit, and he encouraged illicit mining to gain political power
- At the end of Stevens’ 17-year rule, De Beers removed itself from deeply corrupt Sierra Leone. In 1984, De Beers’ SLST sold its remaining shares to the Precious Metals Mining Co., controlled by Mohammed. A year later, Stevens retired and his successor, Joseph Momoh, having little political or leadership skills, placed even more responsibility in Mohammed’s hands, and illicit diamond mining within Sierra Leone flourished
- In 1991, with a weak leader, a corrupt government and openly illicit diamond trading, Sierra Leone was a vulnerable and attractive site for armed rebellion. On March 23, a civil war began when the Revolutionary United Front, a group of 100 fighters from Sierra Leone and Liberia, invaded east Sierra Leone.

- The World Diamond Council is spending around $US15 million ($19.5 million) on an awareness campaign, funded by heavyweights such as South Africa’s De Beers, ahead of the Christmas release of the film, set in the western African nation of Sierra Leone
- But the London-based rights group Amnesty International recently said the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) had not managed to implement foolproof checks three years after it came into force.
“Despite the progress made, three years after its establishment the KPCS has not been able to fully address, monitor and end the international trade in conflict diamonds,” it said.

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