Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Plan to redefine conflict diamonds rejected


THE United States, Canada and other western nations have failed in a bid to redefine “conflict diamonds” which would have given them greater scope to block Zimbabwe’s diamonds, reports said Thursday.
The Kimberley Process, which is currently chaired by the United States, is meeting in Washington DC from June 4 to 7 for its annual meeting to discuss the mining and trading of conflict diamonds.
On the table were plans by western countries and their NGOs to reform the KP certification scheme to address human rights violations.
But the proposal “hit a brick wall as the idea was rejected by African and Asian members during closed-door discussions by the Working Group on Reform”, according to Sunday Mail editor, Brezhnev Malaba, who is with the Zimbabwe delegation in Washington DC.
Malaba said KP member countries had been sent a questionnaire in advance of the meeting exploring whether the definition of conflict diamonds must be broadened to encompass “human rights” issues, and 75 percent of the respondents had shot down the proposal.
With resolutions of the KP deliberations not set to be published until Friday, the Zimbabwe delegation was confident the motion had been defeated.
One African delegate said: “During the Working Group on Reform, attempts by the US to go into the merits or de-merits of changing the definition of conflict diamonds was totally resisted.
“The whole motion was shot down on account of its defective methodology. If the recent survey clearly showed that more than 75 percent of the members were against redefinition, on what basis was the US trying to force the matter through?”
The Kimberley Process, founded in 2003, groups the diamond industry, rights groups and 75 countries to certify rough diamonds as "conflict-free" to assure purchasers they are not funding violence. It was born after wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia that were fuelled by "blood diamonds."
The KP originally banned diamonds from Marange after the army moved in to drive out thousands of diamond hunters amid claims of human rights abuses.
But subsequent monitoring missions by the KP have revealed no rights abuses. But even then, the United States, Canada and their allies continue to ban Zimbabwe diamonds and the flow of cash to the companies doing mining which President Robert Mugabe says is a deliberate plot to scuttle Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.

In February, rights group Global Witness, which quit the KP, cited fears that Mugabe loyalists were using diamond revenue as an "off-budget cash cow" instead of rebuilding the shattered economy.
It also said unspecified amounts of Zimbabwe's diamond earnings were being stashed away in tax-free havens and could be used to finance violence and intimidation in upcoming elections.
But this stance is not supported by Zimbabwe’s finance minister Tendai Biti who wrote a letter to the United States treasury last December pleading for the removal of a ban on Marange diamonds.
“Zimbabwe is a poor fragile economy and therefore it must be allowed to sell and benefit from its resources,” Biti said. “In my budget, there are capital projects of US$600 million which are totally dependent on diamond revenues.”

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