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CONFLICT-FREE DIAMONDS

INDUSTRY PUSHES FOR EXPANDED DEFINITION OF ‘CONFLICT DIAMONDS,’
BUT KIMBERLEY PROCESS DECIDES NOT TO DECIDE

The Plenary of the Kimberley Process, which is the coalition of national governments, the diamond industry and civil society organizations working to end the trade in conflict diamonds, has met for the organization’s 2018 annual meeting in Brussels in November, with the industry and civil society bodies, both of which only hold observer status, pushing hard for an expansion of the scope of the body’s mission to include a more comprehensive view of human rights.

The World Diamond Council (WDC), the industry’s representative, and the Civil Society Coalition (CSC), specifically voiced their strong support for an expansion of the formal definition of conflict diamonds. The two bodies had formulated the more comprehensive definition together, but the formally proposal was put forward by the government of Canada, which has full member status in the Kimberley Process.

The 2018 Plenary session of the Kimberley Process took place in Brussels, the seat of the European Commission, which has chaired the KP since the start of the year.

The proposed change would have expanded the scope beyond the conflict diamonds definition, which currently covers rough stones that finance wars against governments, to include “rough diamonds used by public security forces or private (including criminal or mercenary) armed groups to acquire wealth through the illegal control, bribery, taxation, extortion or dispossession of people.” It would also include rough diamonds “acquired through systematic and widespread violence, forced labor, the worst forms of child labor, or through violations of international humanitarian law.”

But, while there was strong support for the proposal among many at the meeting, the Kimberley Process was unable to reach a decision. This largely because of the requirement that all resolutions be passed by a consensus of all members, meaning that a handful of nations can block any resolution.

INDUSTRY AND CIVIL SOCIETY PROTEST GOVERNMENT INACTION

The WDC was diplomatic but firm in its response. While reiterating support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as the most effective means possible to end the trade in conflict diamonds, it voiced its concern that more progress was not made in reforming its scope during plenary meeting in Brussels.

Nonetheless, the WDC considered as positive the noting in the KP Plenary’s final communique of the submission by the Canadian government, and expressed hope that the Kimberley Process Participants will eventually support the amendment when it meets at the next KP Plenary in India in 2019.

But the Civil Society Coalition was less forgiving in its response. “The resisting participants will find themselves on the wrong side of history,” it stated in an announcement after the meeting.

DIAMOND INDUSTRY TAKES THE BULL BY THE HORNS

Disappointed although not surprised by the inability of the governments to reach a consensus decision in Brussels, the WDC had decided ahead of time to independently introduce measures that would broaden the scope of the conflict diamonds definition.

At its Annual General Meeting in Mumbai in October, just weeks before the KP Plenary in Brussels, it ratified a reformed version of its System of Warranties, which all trading companies are obliged to maintain so that the integrity of diamonds are protected all the way through the chain of distribution.

The strengthened System of Warranties now include clear references to a range of international human rights protocols, among them the OECD due diligence guidance for minerals from conflict areas, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the Responsible Jewellery Council’s Code of Practices.

“We must find it within ourselves to break away from the mindset of ‘if we still need to strengthen our current standards, how can we even think about expanding our scope?,’” said Stephane Fischler, the WDC President, addressing the Kimberley Process in Brussels. “Our reply to that is: ‘How can we even think of not using this reform opportunity to strengthen the diamond equity.’”

‘WE MUST FIND IT WITHIN OURSELVES TO BREAK AWAY FROM THE MINDSET OF ‘IF WE STILL NEED TO STRENGTHEN OUR CURRENT STANDARDS, HOW CAN WE EVEN THINK ABOUT EXPANDING OUR SCOPE? OUR REPLY TO THAT IS: ‘HOW CAN WE EVEN THINK OF NOT USING THIS REFORM OPPORTUNITY TO STRENGTHEN THE DIAMOND EQUITY.’

STEPHANE FISCHLER
WDC PRESIDENT