Representative of the tripartite coalition that makes up the Kimberley Process will assemble in New Delhi, India, on November 18, for a five-day Plenary Meeting at which the fate of the organization’s three-year review and reform cycle will be decided.
Although there are a number of proposals on the table for strengthening the operation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the system by which exports and imports of rough merchandise are regulated to ensure that conflict diamonds do not enter the chain of supply, the most controversial element involves what is referred to as the scope of the KPCS, and relates to what type of goods are considered conflict diamonds.
The definition for conflict diamonds that is currently used is the same one that has been used ever since the KPCS was launched at the beginning of 2003, and that is rough diamonds associated with the financing of rebel groups in civil wars. Sixteen years ago, a number of such conflagrations were raging in Africa, but today only a very limited number of rough diamonds in the market comply with the definition, and those are almost exclusively being sourced from non-monitored areas in the Central African Republic.
Both industry, which is represented by the World Diamond Council (WDC), and civil society groups involved in the Kimberley Process, as well as a number of mainly Western governments, have called on the Kimberley Process to expand the scope of the definition, so that it also includes diamonds associated with the financing of gross instances of organized violence in peacetime as well, but other governments have shown themselves reluctant to make the change.
SEVERAL REFORM PROPOSALS CONSIDERED
Several amendments to the conflict diamonds definition are currently being considered by the KP. The first was tabled by Canada, which was formulated together by WDC and the Civil Society Coalition, both of which have observer status in the organization. Others were proposed by Botswana and Russia.
The WDC and civil society proposal is the most far-reaching, and suggests that the conflict diamonds definition be expanded to include diamonds associated with acts of violence carried out by both state and private security forces in the mining areas, as well as by criminal gangs.
Other, less controversial proposals, include the establishment of a Permanent Secretariat to better support the work of KP. No such body exists at present, and administrative responsibility essentially shifts from year to year, as the chair of the KP moves to a different country. There is currently an Administrative Support Mechanism that provides some support, and it is run by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), with the support of the Israel Diamond Institute (IDA), the Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI). WDC has made a commitment to co-finance the Permanent Secretariat.
Also on the table is the proposal to create a multi-donor fund, which will support the participation in certain KP activities of countries with limited resources, as well as to support the Civil Society Coalition. There are also proposals to improve the KP’s review mechanism.
The difficulty in getting any proposal accepted is a the KP’s decision making structure. Only government representatives are allowed to vote, and any decision has to achieve consensus. This means that any country can block meaningful reform of the process.
Stephane Fischler, President of the World Diamond Council, speaking at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, in October 2019.
WDC SYSTEM OF WARRANTIES
Speaking on October 23 in Sochi, Russia, at the Russia-Africa Summit, WDC President Stephane Fischler said that the industry has to be cognizant of the concerns being voiced in the consumer markets.
“Now I can appreciate the indignation of those African colleagues about having policy dictated to them according to the expectations of consumers in affluent markets,” he stated. “As an industry we have to be attentive to the perspectives and sensitivities of those who grew up in societies that historically have been exploited and disadvantaged. But at the same time, because our ability to sell product is entirely dependent on maintaining consumer demand, we also need to be sympathetic to the requirements of the diamond jewelry buyers. We cannot lose sight of the reality that there are 10 million Africans whose daily livelihood depends on diamond jewelry maintaining its status as an aspirational purchase in the major consumer markets.”
While the industry would prefer to work through the structure of the KP, it will not stand idly by if the scope of the Kimberley Process is not appropriately expanded, he stated.
“Last year, the WDC Board of Directors approved a new System of Warranties, which has a scope that goes significantly beyond that of the Kimberley Process,” Mr. Fischler said. “It requires that all B2B sellers of rough diamonds, polished diamonds and jewelry containing diamonds include a statement on the invoice or memo document that the goods being sold are in compliance with the KPCS. The new System of Warranties statement also includes a commitment by the companies that they adhere to WDC Guidelines, which expressly reference international conventions relating to human and labor rights, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering (AML). “