Almost 20 years to the day that the United Nations Security Council adopted its first resolution concerning what eventually would become known as conflict diamonds, the members of the international system that was created in the wake of this decision, the Kimberley Process, are gathering in Antwerp for the first of their two scheduled meetings for 2018.
The UN Security Council resolution that passed on June 24, 2008, concerned unofficial diamond production from civil war-afflicted Angola, and it was followed by another on July 5, 2000, banning the purchase of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone, where rebel groups were using proceeds from their sale to finance their activities. Then on December 1, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the introduction of a global certification system, created at national levels, to prevent the infiltration of diamonds from conflict areas into the legitimate trading pipeline.
Already more than six months earlier, in May 2000, a meeting of diamond mining, processing and trading countries took place in the South African town of Kimberley, where the concept of a global rough diamond regulatory system was first conceived. It was also the event that provided the process with its iconic name. Two months later the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association met in Antwerp and passed a resolution creating the World Diamond Council (WDC), whose role it would be represent the industry and liaise with governments and civil society, in developing and implementing a tracking system for the export and import of rough diamonds.
On January 1, 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPSC) was launched. At the time, 37 nations had signed on to the system, whereby rough diamonds will be accompanied by a certificate on import and export. Rough diamonds from these countries cannot be exported to countries who are not participants of the system.
Today the KPCS unites 81 countries around the world, and it is credited with stemming 99.8 percent of the global production of conflict diamonds.
A CALL TO EXPAND THE DEFINITION OF CONFLICT DIAMONDS
By most counts the Kimberley Process was a remarkable accomplishment, not only because it was successful in meetings its challenge, but also because it did so through the combined efforts of governments around the world, the diamond and jewelry industries, and a host of non-profit civil-society organizations operating in Africa and internationally. But it also changed the diamond and jewelry industries, instilling within them an understanding that their actions or lack of action have consequence for society in general.
The issues that face the Kimberley Process members at the Intersessional Meeting in Antwerp from June 18 to 22 are different to those which were addressed by participants at the first such gathering in South Africa in May 2000. One of the topics that will be discussed is whether the definition of conflict diamonds is still relevant 18 years later.
The definition that is still being applied relates to rough diamonds being sold with the express purpose of financing civil war against legitimate governments. Today, with the exception of a trickle of good from the Central African Republic, which itself is only a minor producer, there are no diamonds that meet the strict definition.
But there is a sizeable body of opinion, both within and outside the Kimberley Process, which calls for the conflict diamond definition to be expanded, to include all acts of violence and other human rights violations. It is a position that largely supported by the industry’s representative, the World Diamond Council.
VOLUNTARILY SUBMITTING TO HIGHER ETHICAL STANDARDS
While it is not stipulated by law, a growing number of a diamond and jewelry companies are submitting to a codes of practices that extend beyond the Kimberley Process, to include issues such as human rights, labor relations, health and safety standards, and measures to combat corruption.
Created in 2004, the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) is a standards setting and certification organization, which today more than 1,100 member companies spanning the entire supply chain, from mining to retail.
RJC members commit to and are independently audited against the RJC Code of Practices, which is an international standard on responsible business practices for diamonds, gold and platinum group metals. The RJC Code of Practices addresses human rights, labor rights, environmental impact, mining practices, product disclosure and many other topics in the jewelry supply chain.
In August 2017, MID House of Diamonds was certified by the Responsible Jewelry Council as being compliant with its 2013 Code of Practices. In order to be certified as compliant, the company first carried out a self-assessment of the degree to which it conformed with the RJC COP, and it was then subject to a certification audit by an accredited auditor. During the process, the auditor verified that the company had put in place all due diligence systems that enable it to comply.
MID’s decision to obtain RJC certification, by meeting a higher set of responsible business standards than those dictated by law, was voluntary, and is indicative of how the diamond business has changed over the past two decades. In many ways it is legacy of that first conflict diamonds resolution passed by the United Nations in June 2008.