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UK: New survey shows diamond shops can't assure customers that stones are not conflict diamonds

The survey, presented to this week’s World Diamond Congress (WDC) in New York, shows that almost two years after the diamond industry agreed to a system of self-regulation to prevent the trade in diamonds from regions of conflict, retailers in the UK are still failing to live up to their promises.

Amnesty International members around the country visited over 330 UK high-street shops and questioned staff about their policy on conflict diamonds:

  • Nearly half (46 per cent) could not provide a copy of their company policy on conflict diamonds(1), with over a fifth (22 per cent) explicitly stating that they had no policy on the issue.
  • Only 38 per cent of salespeople said that they had received training about conflict diamonds.
  • 59 per cent of UK retailers failed even to respond to letters to Head Office requesting written information about company policy on conflict diamonds, including major UK diamond jewellery retailers like Asprey, Theo Fennell and Debenhams.

The survey shows that the diamond industry has failed to adequately implement a system of self regulation launched in January 2003. The system requires written warranties from all buyers and sellers of diamonds and incorporates a code of conduct to support the international Kimberley Process Certification Scheme preventing the trade in conflict diamonds.

Now Amnesty International and Global Witness are calling for governments to step in and ensure effective, independent monitoring of the Kimberley Process and the industry’s code of conduct.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The trade in conflict diamonds has fuelled protracted and bloody wars in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, destroying nations and costing an estimated 3.7 million lives.

“The diamond industry is not taking the issue of conflict diamonds seriously enough. Governments must step in and audit companies to ensure that diamonds are not funding conflict or human rights abuses.

“Consumers can really make a difference and force the industry to clean up its act. If you’re buying a diamond, demand an assurance that it’s clean. Diamonds may be expensive, but they needn’t cost people’s lives.”

Global Witness and Amnesty International are calling on governments in the Kimberley Process to ensure that the diamond industry fully implements the code of conduct to which it agreed in January 2003.

Governments, including the UK, must carry out rigorous auditing and inspections of companies to ensure the industry is implementing the regulations it has committed to and report back in 2005.

As well as visiting shops, Amnesty International and Global Witness also wrote to over 80 major diamond jewellery retailers in the UK and US. The main findings include the following:

  • Out of 85 companies that were sent letters requesting written information about their policies, 48 (56%) failed to respond including major diamond jewellery retailers like Asprey, Theo Fennell and Debenhams in the UK, and Costco Whole Sale Corporation, T.J.Maxx and Kmart in the US.
  • 32 out of the 37 companies that responded (86%) are implementing the system of warranties and have a policy to prevent dealing in conflict diamonds. However, 30 of the companies responding (81%) did not provide adequate details on how the system of warranties is being implemented and audited.

Today's results are part of a wider ongoing survey in which more than 800 retailers and suppliers have been contacted in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland but so far only 52 have responded with information on their policy.

Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness said:

“As the public face of the industry, diamond jewellery retailers must do more to show their commitment to comply with the self-regulation and actively promote compliance by their suppliers.

“The World Diamond Council and other key industry bodies must develop a common standard for verifying compliance, and we hope that trade organisations will follow Jewellers of America in monitoring its members.”

Notes for editors

  1. Based on responses to the question “Does the company have a policy on conflict diamonds and if so, can you provide a copy?”. 22% said that there was no company policy; 5% said ‘no comment’ or referred Amnesty to Head Office and 6% did not know.
  2. Extract from The Essential Guide to Implementing the Kimberley Process, World Diamond Council, 2003:

    In order to strengthen the credibility of the Kimberley Process agreement, as well as to provide the means by which consumers might more effectively be assured of the origin of their diamonds, the World Diamond Council proposed that the industry create and implement a System of Warranties for diamonds. Under this system, which has been endorsed by all Kimberley Process participants, all buyers and sellers of both rough and polished diamonds must make the following affirmative statement on all invoices:

    “The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.”

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