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KIMBERLEY PROCESS COMES UNDER FIRE AFTER FAILING TO AMEND ‘CONFLICT DIAMONDS’ DEFINITION IN NEW DELHI

 

After five days of deliberations in New Delhi, with the deadline for the end of the Kimbreley Process’ three-year review and reform cycle fast approaching, delegates made a last-minute attempt to reach consensus over a broadening of the definition of what constitutes a “conflict diamond.” But they ultimately failed to reach agreement.

The result is that, on paper at least, the definition used by the organization responsible for administering system that prevents diamonds from conflict areas from entering the distribution chain will remain the same, until the end of the next review and reform cycle in 2024. 

According to the current definition, which has not been changed since the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was first launched at the start of 2003, “conflict diamond” are rough goods that are being used to finance rebel wars against legitimate governments. At the time it was introduced, a series of civil wars were raging in Africa, with several of them being fueled by the rough diamonds diamond trade. But following the introduction of the KPCS most of the wars ground to a halt, and today the only goods that meet the “conflict diamonds” definition are a limited number of rough stones being smuggled from the Central African Republic.

But conflict and violence in diamond-mining areas of Africa continue, particular in alluvial fields, where artisanal and small-scale miners operate. The World Diamond Council, which represents the industry in the Kimberley Process, civil society groups and number of mainly Western government have lobbied for an expansion of the “conflict diamonds” definition within the Kimberley Process core document, so that it would include acts of organized violence by state and private security forces, as well as criminal elements. 

But they were unsuccessful in convincing all voting government members of the Kimberley Process, where the decision-making process requires that an absolute consensus be reached in order for any resolution be passed. In the end, at the KP Plenary Meeting in New Delhi on November 22, when for a short while it seemed the compromise may be reached, the final blow was delivered by the Chinese delegation, which refused to sign on to the new definition.

CRITICISM FROM BOTH INDUSTRY AND CIVIL SOCIETY

Civil Society’s condemnation of the Kimberley Process’ inability to reach consensus was harsh. “Today, another three-year reform cycle of the Kimberley Process came to an end without meaningful change. Participating states could only find consensus on insignificant changes to the scope and governance of the scheme. They once again failed to effectively protect communities in diamond mining areas from ongoing abuses,” it stated in an announcement released shortly after the meeting.

“Most problematic is the failure of the umpteenth attempt at broadening the scope of the certification scheme to capture contemporary conflict challenges. As a result, the KP remains a process that only serves to protect state interests against rebels seeking to overthrow them,” the Civil Society statement continued.

The 2019 Kimberley Process Meeting in session in New Delhi, India.

The World Diamond Council was also critical. “Both lives and livelihoods are at stake, and the individuals that will always suffer most egregiously, both from the violence in the mining areas and from the resultant loss of value in the diamond product, are the tens of millions of people depending on the diamond trade, including artisanal miners, their families and their communities. So will the economies of the countries in which they live,” said WDC President in his speech to the closing ceremony of the KP Plenary in New Delhi.

“Under current conditions, where a KPCS-certificate alone may not necessarily provide a rough diamond access to the entire market, because it no longer meets many in the trades’ minimum standards, we are concerned that we are helping create a two tier-diamond market,” he stated. “Those miners who are not part of the club, who are more likely be artisanal, will be severely disadvantaged, and may struggle to get a fair price or even reach the market.”

Wesley Hunt, the chairperson of the ad-hoc Laboratory-Grown Diamond Working Group. A De Beers executive, his company holds the status of being among world’s largest producers of both natural and laboratory-grown diamonds.

INDUSTRY TO RELY TO WDC SYSTEM OF WARRANTIES

The diamond industry does not intend waiting another five years in the hope that the Kimberley Process may find a solution, said the Mr. Fischler.

The WDC’s System of Warranties (SoW), which has been in place for 16 years already, was substantially strengthened in 2018. It has formal status within the Kimberley Process, where according to the core document it is designed to facilitate full traceability of diamond transactions by government authorities.

Already today, the WDC President stressed, B2B sellers of rough diamonds, polished diamonds and diamond jewelry are obliged to include a statement on the invoice or memo document that the diamonds being sold are in compliance with the KP. 

The revised SoW, goes significantly beyond the KPCS, requiring a commitment by companies to adhere to WDC Guidelines, which expressly reference international conventions relating to human and labor rights, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering (AML).

Adherence to the SoWs within the diamond industry is substantial. It is a requirement of membership of the two largest diamond industry associations – the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, and is referenced in the Code of Practice of the Responsible Jewelry Council and the Responsible Sourcing Blue Book of CIBJO, the World Jewelry Confederation.