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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Collapse of the Kimberley Process Appears Imminent

A Kimberley Process certificate, which ensures that diamonds are conflict-free. Photo credit: De Beers

The Kimberley Process, which has been in a stalemate during the past two years over whether to allow Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from its controversial Marange diamond field, now appears to be breaking apart, according to published reports.

The civil society coalition, one of the three pillars of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, walked out of a meeting of KP members in the Democratic Republic of Congo Thursday saying negotiations with Zimbabwe were harming the scheme’s credibility, according to a report on the Rapaport website, Diamonds.net.

The coalition, which includes Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, reportedly said that the KPCS is not meeting its most basic commitments to prevent diamonds from fueling violence and human rights violations, and to provide guarantees to consumers that they are buying clean diamonds.

The latest proposal to allow exports from two Marange concessions operated by Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources while other concessions would be subject to a Kimberley Process monitoring team until the next plenary meeting in November, was rejected by the U.S., Canada and Israel at the meeting in Kinshasa, the DOC’s largest city, Diamonds.net reports.

The Kimberley Process requires full consensus from all members to pass a resolution, Diamonds.net reports. Civil society, and the World Diamond Council, which represents the diamond industry, have observer status in the meeting.

Of course, according to the reports I’ve been reading, the KP meeting is being held behind closed doors, typical of how the organization operates even though it exists to ensure consumers that the diamonds they buy have been mined through legal means and without human rights abuses. The public portion of its website hasn’t been updated since February 18.

On Wednesday, Voice of America reported that Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu divided Kimberley Process members saying that his country will keep selling diamonds from the Marange field with or without the Kimberley Process. In speech that was described as a “diatribe” by some KP members, accussed “racist” Western nations of trying to obstruct Zimbabwe from realizing its diamond revenues.

Mpofu also boycotted an earlier meeting of a working group on Zimbabwe, VOA reports. Also in its report, it notes that Anjin, a Chinese firm, is developing parts of Marange in a joint venture with the Zimbabwean government. Mpofu reportedly said Anjin will soon begin to export rough diamonds from Marange.

Zimbabwe is a founding member of the Kimberley Process, an international organization made up of diamond industry representatives, government officials from 75 countries and non-governmental organizations. It is charged with preventing trade in illicit diamonds—commonly called “blood” or “conflict” diamonds, depending on whether you have a vested interested in the diamond industry. Illicit diamonds under the organization’s mandate are the result of diamonds being used to fund brutal civil wars where innocent people are being killed and mutilated by those involved in these conflicts.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as “conflict-free.”

The Marange diamond field, which many say contain the largest deposit of diamonds in the world, has been the scene of murders and other human rights abuses by Robert Mugabe’s government and its military, as well as illegal smuggling of diamonds. The Zimbabwe government insist those abuses have stopped but human rights advocates say they continue; that money from mines is being used to finance the ruling party’s operations, including upcoming elections; and diamond smuggling continues.

To learn more use the search option on this site and plug in the keyword terms "Kimberley Process,"  "Zimbabwe," or "Marange."

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