Is The Kimberley Process Working?

“Who is responsible for ensuring that the diamond industry is not promoting human rights violations through the purchase of diamonds?” Martin Rapaport asks in the August 2011 issue of Rapaport (pg. 31). “You are… You can’t rely on governments or trade organizations. You have to make a fair and honest effort to ensure your supplier is not selling you bad diamonds.” One of the founding principles of Avilan™ is to make sure that our diamonds do not only meet the KPCS standards but our own as well. As of July 2012, our Storied Diamond™ is third-party certified by the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) Global Services, ensuring that each diamond is up-cycled™ and conflict-free. We hold personal responsibility for each of our products, and although strides are being made to change the industry, the process is not as complete or fast as Avilan™ standards.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established in 2003 to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market. It was introduced by United Nations General Assembly  with the intent”to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.”  Ideally, the KPCS does its job to keep rebel violence to a minimum within diamond-mining countries. Whether or not this is enough, however, is up for debate, as rising ethical concerns over human rights violations and the environmental impact of mining have become a growing presence in the diamond industry.

Throughout its existence, particularly within the past few years, it has come under fire from both outside sources and its own members. Accusations of lax regulation, vaguely defining contested diamond mines, and slow progression have marred its history, resulting in several of its own members walking out. Ian Smillie of Canadian-based NGO, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), one of the KCPS’s founding members, left in June 2009 due to feelings of failed regulation leading to “pretense that failure is success.” Around the same time, fellow founder Global Witness also resigned, stating that “despite having all tools in place, the scheme was failing effectively to address issues of non-compliance, smuggling, money laundering and human right’s abuses in the world’s alluvial diamond fields.”

The current definition does not include human rights abuses, an issue that was discussed this July by the Kimberley Process. Though no permanent decisions were made at the intercessional, there is hope that there may be progress at the upcoming plenary session come November.  However, this does not include a review of the environmental impacts of diamond mining nor the recent attention to diamonds from the contested Marange mines of Chiadzwa. All of these growing concerns and more fall to the KPCS for examination, though the time table for resolution is fuzzy at best.

“Changes comes about gradually,” stated Eli Izhakoff of the World Diamond Council (Rapaport July 2012, pg. 35), “and always as the result of an ongoing dialogue and a general desire to see outstanding issues resolved.” The KP gives each of its members a vote on whatever issue they address at each plenary session and generally must be more or less unanimous for the motion to pass. While it gives each member an equal say, it does allow interested parties the potential to stop a motion dead in its tracks. In November 2011, the KP lowered standards for Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange region which in 2008 were seized by government forces, resulting in over 200 death of mine workers. “It’s a pure business deal that leaves out key concerns of Zimbabwe’s civil society: that is protection of the locals from  human rights abuses in and around Marange and ensuring that Marange diamonds are properly accounted for, for the benefit of the suffering Zimbabwean people,” stated Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Research and Development in Zimbabwe and partner with the Human Rights Watch. Reexamining the definition of a conflict diamond is a step in the right direction, potentially opening the doors for more and equally serious issues to be addressed by the KPCS. However, this change that sustainable retailers, wholesalers and consumers want to see can be expedited by their input as their responsibility, according to Martin Rapaport.

While the Kimberley Process fights for ideals and works toward stopping human rights violations, it is an unlikely reality due to its self-interested parties and voting system. What may result from the November plenary session cannot be predicted, but it can be influenced and encouraged. Whether from a rough dealer, cutter, polished dealer, wholesaler, retailer, or a consumer, the power of ethically-attained diamonds lies in the demand for them. If there is a demand, then a supply will result; it is an economic certainty. And in a world of growing environmental and equitable consciousness, there will inevitably be a demand. It is a matter of time and personal responsibility.

 

 

 

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