Members of government, the diamond and jewelry industry and human rights groups gathered in the Indian city of Mumbai, June 17-21, for the first of two Kimberley Process (KP) meetings that will be hosted in the country this year. India is the current chair of the KP, which is the multinational coalition established in 2000 to prevent the infiltration of conflict diamonds into the legitimate diamond pipeline.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which is the system launched by the KP in 2003 to monitor and regulate the flow of rough diamonds in the pipeline, was designed to eliminate the incidence of conflict diamonds, which are according to the KP definition, are goods used to finance civil wars against standing governments.
Twenty years ago, when the KP was established, merchandise meeting this criterion was pouring out of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola. At the time, the percentage of goods considered to be conflict diamonds was estimated to be in excess of 4 percent. However today, with civil war virtually non-existent in any diamond-producing countries, with the exception of a very limited number of goods being smuggled from the Central African Republic, the incidence of conflict diamonds is infinitesimal.
But the Kimberley Process continues to meet and discuss policy. But the tone of the conversation has changed somewhat. While preventing the entry of conflict diamonds into the market is still a primary issue, there is today a fundamental question of what constitutes a conflict diamond, and whether an additional role of the industry is to serve the interests of mining communities in Africa achieve sustainable economic and social opportunities
OPTIMIZING DEVELOPMENTAL POTENTIAL OF NATURAL DIAMONDS
Speaking during the opening session of the 2019 KP Intersessional Meeting Stephane Fischler, president the World Diamond Council, the body created in 2000 to represent the industry within the KP, has called on member governments to do what is necessary to safeguard the interests of their mining communities, and in so doing optimize the developmental potential of their natural resources.
“We must agree that the Kimberley Process should ensure that each government takes responsibility to ensure a chain of provenance, earning the trust of consumers wherever they are, and in so doing produce the revenues that must filter back to the grass roots of the mining communities,” Mr. Fischler stated.
Historically, he noted, one of the most critical factors determining whether a country’s economy is able to take advantage of the potential offered by its rough diamond deposits is the relative absence of ongoing conflict and violence.
“There is a dramatic disparity between the development level of those countries and the others that suffered the tragedy of civil war, Fischler stated. “Only today are some slowly realizing the opportunities that their commodities could offer, in helping maintain the peace and allowing for nation building.”
BROADENING RANGE OF INSTANCES COVERED BY ‘CONFLICT DIAMONDS’
In the opinion of the WDC, Fischler stressed, the definition of what constitutes “conflict diamonds” should be expanded.
“We strongly believe that, by helping eliminate the trade in diamonds directly associated with instances of systemic violence, we can bring about a more responsible and ethical mining sector, thus enabling a fairer distribution of the benefits delivered to millions of people,” he stated.
‘We strongly believe that, by helping eliminate the trade in diamonds directly associated with instances of systemic violence, we can bring about a more responsible and ethical mining sector, thus enabling a fairer distribution of the benefits delivered to millions of people,’ WDC President Stephane Fischler told the Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting in Mumbai.
In the opinion of the WDC, which is a position supported by the civil society groups involved in the Kimberley Process, the definition of what constitutes conflict diamonds should include acts of violence carried out against artisanal miners by state and private security forces, irrespective of whether associated with civil uprisings .
“To those who wish to define the KP as purely being a mechanism that protects the free trade of rough diamonds, we would recommend that you talk to the people of Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe,” Fischler told the WDC Intersessional meeting in Mumbai. “Ask them about the destruction and human suffering that hijacked diamonds proceeds have and sometimes continue to cause, and why the commodities sourced in these countries have failed to heal the wounds of the past and built a better future for their people.”
“As you all know, for the industry, and here I include our jewelry manufacturing and retailing partners, the provenance of a stone has become as essential as its weight and value,” the WDC president said. “We need to show the consumer that the chain of value, from the mine to jewelry store, is responsible and ethical.”