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Blood diamonds: More indications that the Kimberley Process is failing

A previous post discussed troubling news about the Kimberley Process for regulating the trade in diamond. Now the Liberian Observer is reporting:

Spokesman for the Kimberly Process International Civil Society Coalition, Alfred Lahai Brownell Sr., says production and trade in conflict diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire and other countries is increasing.In a speech delivered recently at a Kimberly Process plenary meeting held in Swakopmund, Namibia, Brownell, who is also senior campaigner of the Environmental Lawyers of Liberia (Green Advocates), indicated that diamonds continue to be smuggled out of Venezuela and into neighboring countries that are KP “participants.”

He further told the gathering that diamonds from Marange in eastern Zimbabwe, produced under military control and against a background of appalling abuse, are also leaving the country illicitly for international markets.

“Nearly ten years ago, when South Africa called on governments, the diamond industry and civil society to come together in Kimberley in the hopes of stamping out the scourge of conflict diamonds; no one could have foreseen that a mechanism like the KPCS would come to be. Its genesis was not easy. It took almost three years of often grueling negotiations, but a combination of strong political will and serious commitment led to the implementation of a unique certification scheme that in the years to follow would attempt to clean up the trade in rough diamonds,” he said.

“Today the KP is hailed as a success story, and its tripartite arrangement between governments, industry and civil society is held up as a model for other initiatives,” Brownell said.

“We all recognize the significance and potential of a conflict prevention scheme like the Kimberley Process, all the more important for those of us here today who witnessed firsthand the horror of this continent’s diamond-fuelled conflicts. But we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that our work is finished. For many years, we have claimed that the KP covers 99 percent of the global trade in rough diamonds. This is no longer the case,” the coalition spokesman asserted.

When added to the list diamonds that are illegally bought, traded and certified far from their original sources such as Congo, Guinea, Angola and elsewhere, Brownell said, it can be concluded that between 4% and 5% of the global trade is either circumventing or defrauding KP channels.

“It would be a mistake to view this figure as insignificant because the growing trade in conflict and illicit diamonds jeopardizes the Kimberley Process and the legitimate trade it works to protect,” he indicated.

He observed that the KP has some of the tools necessary to address the challenges it faces; but often lacks the will and the capacity to use them.

In some cases, he added, focused monitoring and closer follow-up of review visit recommendations [such as for Zimbabwe, Guinea, DRC, Lebanon] could have addressed problematic areas and prevented the offenses from being exacerbated or even developing into full-blown crises.

In other cases, Brownell maintained that the KP’s rules and procedures have proven grossly inadequate to effectively respond to and tackle instances of non-compliance [Venezuela and Zimbabwe].

He recommended that members of the Kimberley Process must use the tools available to them, but must also consider what steps can and must be taken to reform and improve the scheme.

Among the actions which he said must be taken into consideration in the coming year is the introduction of explicit provisions that bind KP members to ensure basic human rights in the implementation of the scheme’s minimum requirements. Consensus based decision-making process must be reformed in order to allow swift action and to avoid deadlocks, the KP needs an independent statistical analysis, monitoring and research capacity that would set a high standard of evaluation, avoid conflict of interest and ensure follow-up. The KP’s commitments to ‘Diamonds for Development,’ the theme chosen by the Namibian chairmanship, must be translated into concrete action, particularly in artisanal producing countries.

He further recommended the need for a professional secretariat to handle administrative and technical issues.

“As most of you know, Ian Smillie, one of the KP’s founding fathers, resigned from his involvement in the scheme earlier this year. We share his sense of alarm at how many participants are still failing to implement some of the KP’s most basic provisions – for example, a system of internal controls that guarantees the origin of rough diamond exports. We share his concern that the KP may not have the capacity, or perhaps the will, to address the numerous crises it is facing.

“But we are here today because we believe that the Kimberley Process has the potential to fulfill its mandate as an innovative and flexible certification scheme designed to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds. We are standing here today to recall that respect for human rights in the implementation of internal controls is at the heart of the KP. We are standing here today because civil society is strongly committed to making the KPCS work. We are standing here today because we want to remind all KP participants and observers of the pledge made nine years ago to rid the world of blood diamonds, a commitment we all hold responsibility for.”

He then called upon all participants and observers represented at the meeting, which was held from November 2 to 5, 2009 to renew this pledge and turn their words into action.

He thanked governments and members of industry who have supported the civil society fund since its creation in 2007 including Norway, Switzerland, Rio Tinto and most recently United States.

He asserted that the funds continue to be instrumental for the active participation of civil society coalition members, particularly organizations from Africa and South America.

The meeting was attended by representatives of civil society from Angola, Brazil, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, the UK, Guinea and Zimbabwe.

Again– very disturbing news.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.