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European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood
Pre-screening of the film Blood Diamond, UGC De
Thank you for inviting me to this screening. Usually my schedule rarely allows time to see the films in an aeroplane, let alone get to a cinema: so it is a real pleasure to be here tonight. I apologise upfront for not having brought Leonardo DiCaprio along!
I wanted to make time to introduce this film, because it tackles such an important subject.
I hope that through Blood Diamond many will become more aware of the potential link between the world's most glamorous commodity and some of its most iniquitous violence.
This is the problem that the film describes – and that the Kimberley Process was created to address. The film takes us to Sierra Leone in 1999, to one of Africa's most brutal civil wars and shows us the horrors bought by the illicit diamond trade: violence, destruction, the kidnapping and drugging of children plucked from school and turned into killers.
It makes very clear why in 2003, the international community needed to step in to curb trade in conflict diamonds by establishing a unique international scheme bringing together governments, industry and civil society.
The EU has supported the Kimberley Process since its birth, and this year the European Commission is serving as its Chair, representing all the EU member states.
The Kimberley Process works by preventing conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate international market. The 71 member countries undertake to control their diamond production and trade. All international shipments of rough diamonds must be in tamper-free containers and accompanied by a government-issued certificate guaranteeing their conflict-free origin. Compliance with these requirements is checked by on the ground inspection visits, and through analyses of annual reports and production and trade statistics.
If a country fails to follow these stringent requirements it can be excluded from the scheme, and thus prevented from selling diamonds on the international market. A powerful incentive to comply with the rules, and to tackle violations when they arise.
Has the Kimberley Process been a success? Today, as the film we are about to see notes, Sierra Leone is at peace, as are most of the other countries which suffered from conflicts funded in part by diamonds: Angola, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Of course fragile situations still prevail, and no-one should make the mistake of losing interest just because the guns are silent.
Kimberley means that in these countries there is now the potential for the natural wealth of diamonds to contribute to peace and prosperity, rather than conflict. 2006 was the DRC’s best year for diamond exports since the stones were discovered 100 years ago. In Sierra Leone itself, legal exports have increased 100-fold since the end of the war, bringing obvious benefits for the estimated 10% of the population who depend on the diamond industry.
Today the only case of rebel forces controlling diamond producing areas is in Côte d’Ivoire. These conflict diamonds constitute less than 0.2% of the world’s production. The Kimberley Process is working with the United Nations and neighbouring countries to stop these diamonds entering the legal market.
Consumers today can and should ask questions about diamonds before they buy, ask about the supply chain and demand proof of conflict-free origin. We may not be able to wipe out smuggling completely, but as long as Kimberley rules are applied fully by every participant, consumers buying from legitimate suppliers can be confident that they are not fuelling violence or funding war.
I look forward to updating you on our progress during our time as Kimberley Chair.
Enjoy the film!