Groups Call on Jewelry Industry to Combat 'Conflict Diamonds' and 'Dirty Gold'

Groups Call on Jewelry Industry to Combat 'Conflict Diamonds' and 'Dirty Gold'

Oxfam America, EARTHWORKS, and Global Witness are calling on jewelers to provide consumers with meaningful guarantees that the jewelry they buy is not tarnished with human rights abuses, environmental destruction, or conflict. The global jewelry industry held its annual meeting in Hong Kong from March 3-6 2005. Organized by the World Jewelry Confederation (CIBJO), the meeting's theme this year was "Maintaining Consumer Confidence."

"The jewelry industry must take stronger steps to ensure customers that diamonds are never again linked with conflict, human rights abuses and terrorism." said Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness. Diamonds have fuelled conflicts in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, contributing to the death and displacement of millions of people.

"The symbol of one's enduring love should not have to come at the expense of clean drinking water or respect for human rights," said Payal Sampat of EARTHWORKS. Gold mining has been called one of the world's dirtiest industries, with the production of a single gold ring generating an average 20 tons of mine waste. Irresponsible gold mining practices have polluted water and soil with toxic chemicals, endangering the health of people and ecosystems.

"Consumers are calling on the jewelry industry to provide them with a verifiable alternative to dirty gold," adds Keith Slack of Oxfam America. EARTHWORKS, Oxfam America and other groups worldwide launched the No Dirty Gold campaign in 2004 to reform the mining industry and change the way gold is produced and sold. The campaign seeks to educate consumers about the harmful impacts of gold mining, and to mobilize consumer support for more responsible mining practices.

The groups have called on CIBJO to ensure that any steps it takes result in meaningful changes on the ground for communities currently suffering the impacts of dirty gold mining and the conflict diamond trade. "Consumer confidence will grow out of concrete actions to combat dirty gold and conflict diamonds. It's not only the ethical thing to do, but also a sound business decision," says Sampat.

CIBJO, the World Jewelry Confederation, is comprised of national jewelry and gemstone associations in about 40 countries whose main mission is to "protect consumer confidence in the industry." It has formed a Consumer Confidence Commission to create ethical business practices and has endorsed a self-regulation aimed at preventing the trade in conflict diamonds.

Global surveys carried out by Global Witness and Amnesty International have shown that major players in the diamond jewelry retail sector have failed to adequately implement the self-regulation, and that CIBJO and other trade organizations have not effectively monitored its implementation.

"CIBJO should actively promote and monitor the adoption of effective and transparent policies to combat conflict diamonds and to comply with anti-money laundering regulations and the Kimberley Process," adds Gilfillan. The Kimberley Process is an international governmental certification scheme aimed at preventing the trade in conflict diamonds.

CIBJO president Gaetano Cavalieri noted at a gold industry conference last month that human rights abuses, environmental issues, and poor labor conditions can and do threaten consumer confidence.