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Industry is Confronting Greatest Challenge

Jan 18, 2007 6:37 PM   By Martin Rapaport
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Dear Friends,

Greetings and best wishes for the New Year.

The diamond industry is confronting the greatest challenge to its existence. The moral foundation of our trade is being questioned and we are not providing the right answers. We are being asked to judge ourselves on the basis of our relationship with the poorest and most unfortunate people in the world. Over one million artisanal diamond diggers in West Africa are at grave risk in places like Sierra Leone, where 28 percent of children die before the age of 5 — the highest child mortality rate in the world. Many of the people mining our diamonds are so poor they cannot keep their children alive.

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The humanitarian aspect of how the diamond industry sources its products transcends business. For the diggers, it is a matter of life and death. We dare not ignore these people or bury their desperation with good public relations. If we do not honestly address the needs of the diggers, we will not only lose our business, we will lose our humanity.

This year’s Rapaport International Diamond Conference (Monday, February 5, at the New York Hilton) will bring together the leadership of the global diamond industry, leading NGOs, and major governments. We will spend the day attacking problems and building consensus for proactive measures that the diamond trade can apply to help the poorest people in the world. We will come together to learn, understand and recognize our industry’s responsibility to the people who source our products.

I urge those of you who can attend this conference to do so. You will learn about the complex ethical and development issues surrounding our trade. And you will learn what we, as an industry, and you, as an individual, can do to help solve problems. For those who cannot attend the conference, I urge you to become acquainted with the issues through our new website,, where you can sign up for more information and volunteer to participate in projects that address the positive role that diamonds can play in development.

I am confident that the diamond and jewelry industry can and will make a great difference in the lives of millions of desperate people. By working together, we will enable diamonds to make the world a better place for everyone.

Thank you for your kind attention. May the New Year bring peace and prosperity to all of us in the diamond industry, especially the diggers of West Africa.

Martin Rapaport

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Tags: Conflict Diamonds, Fair Trade
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