Despite calls for change, the Kimberley Process’ (KP) definition of conflict diamonds remains the same, and some believe that is limiting the initiative’s ability to address modern challenges.
What is the Kimberley Process?
The KP is a tripartite initiative composed of governments, diamond
industry players and civil society organizations (CSOs). It was created
to both protect the image of diamonds by keeping them free of
association with violent conflict and to prevent rebel movements from
obtaining and using diamond revenues to fund insurgencies and undermine
governments.To achieve these objectives, the KP oversees a certification scheme
for rough diamonds. Members must adhere to minimum requirements that
regulate various aspects of the trade, such as production, trading
partners and import and export procedures.
However, the KP, which is approaching its 10th anniversary, has been
accused of dropping the ball on numerous occasions, such as with issues
involving the Ivory Coast, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. And its critics argue
that the KP has grown increasingly out of touch, irrelevant and
Global Witness quits the Kimberley Process
Global Witness (GW), which played a key role in establishing the KP,
quit its role in the initiative last year. GW said the KP’s refusal to
evolve and address clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny
has rendered the KP increasingly outdated.
“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad
truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds
come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive
Charmian Gooch, a founding director of GW, in a press release. GW even
went so far as to call the KP “an accomplice to diamond laundering —
whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”
Reforming the Kimberley Process
Even within the KP, the need for reform is widely recognized and the KP is supposed to be undergoing a self review.
“Why we feel there are changes needed, however, is that a certain
number of the procedures or the definitions that were very well adapted
to the situation ten years ago and we believe are no longer as current
as they need to be in order to be able to maintain the consumer
confidence and do the job everyone wants the Kimberley Process to do,”
Gillian Milovanovic, KP chair, said during a web chat.
Part of the challenge for the KP is that what people want it to do
varies. Arguably one of the most important changes that the KP needs to
make is to redefine what a conflict diamond is. The KP’s definition of
conflict has not evolved beyond its initial focus on rebel activity,
which critics insist is far too narrow.
“It is the definition of conflict diamonds that underpins
the KP’s ability to act decisively in the face of unacceptable and
criminal behaviour; to censure, to demand improvement, and, if needed,
expel a country,” said Alan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada at the World Diamond Council’s annual meeting.
However, one of the problems there is that some are pushing for
expansion into territory that the KP has resisted entering, such as a
Welcoming the opportunity to offer clarity on this subject, the KP
chair told web chat participants that “admittedly, conflict clearly has
something to do with human rights because people suffer when there is
conflict, but human rights per se is not the focus. Human rights is
implicit but it’s conflict and still would be with the changed
If diamonds are not at the core of a conflict, Milovanovic added, then the conflict is not something for the KP to deal with.
The KP holds an annual meeting, the plenary, where decisions are
made. This year it was in Washington, DC from November 27 to 30. While
there were numerous considerations on the agenda, for many, the most
anticipated was the discussion of the definition of conflict diamonds.
Though KP members from the diamond industry and CSOs are included in
the decision-making process, only governments get to vote. Changes, such
as the proposed update of the definition of conflict diamonds, are made
“We were not able to reach the point where we saw agreement on a text,” Milovanovic reportedly said at a press conference after the meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, she said that what she saw as important and was
pleased about was more engagement from countries, parts of the industry
and individuals who in the past sat back and didn’t feel they should
participate and didn’t feel they should make their views known. “Now
we’re really getting into a lot of good exchange, a lot of engagement
and I think that will be a critical achievement,” she said.
The fact that the definition of conflict diamonds remains the same is
likely a disappointment for many and will almost certainly provide
fodder for further criticism of the KP.
“Ultimately, however, the KP holds its fate in its own hands. If it
squanders the current opportunity to address systemic problems that have
plagued it — with greater consequences each time — then it will seal
its own irrelevancy. More people will reconsider their engagement with
the KP and the reflection will shine a bright and unflattering light on
the industry as a whole,” Martin warned earlier this year.