OUTGOING Kimberley Process (KP) chair, United States’ Gillian Milovanovic, plans to ignore previous contestations to the definition of conflict diamonds and will push for amendments to the definition at the organisation’s plenary discussion scheduled for November 27 in Washington DC.
Report by Taurai Mangudhla
She said this at the inaugural Zimbabwe Diamond Conference held in Harare early this week.
The initiative, which is being promoted by Canada, the European Union and the US, was in October shot down by African member states of the KP, including Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as major diamond buying nations like India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, on the basis it was specifically targeting Zimbabwe in order to prevent its Marange diamond industry from competing fairly on the global market.
Milovanovic said desirable attributes of an updated definition should maintain the previous focus on ensuring rough diamonds were free from armed conflict and armed violence while addressing human rights, financial transparency, economic development and other important questions that impact on the diamond sector through the exchange of best practices and voluntary initiatives.
The move comes as the Zimbabwean government, accused of looting US$2 billion worth of diamonds, has publicly announced it is against full disclosure of diamond operations as a sanctions-busting move.
“Additional certification standards beyond the current definition should apply only to armed conflict and/or armed violence that is demonstrably related to rough diamonds and independently verified.
“They should not apply to isolated, individual incidents or to circumstances or situations in which an armed conflict exists, but is unrelated to the diamond sector,” Milovanovic said, adding failure to comply with the new definition would lead to exclusion.
She said the KP safeguards should be implemented on a site-by-site basis in line with systems for other conflict minerals, such as that undertaken within Africa by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
The proposed new definition, which is aimed at ensuring KP successfully provides enough assurances to diamond consumers in future, includes any violence related to the production of diamonds, even if it is not connected to the activities of a rebel movement.
“Of course, needed evolution in the diamond sector will not come solely through definitions. The subject of integrating development into the KP deserves to be highlighted, because it affects those workers within the diamond sector who are the most vulnerable and because it can make a broader, lasting contribution,” said Milovanovic.
Incoming KP chair, South Africa, is expected to take up the initiative in 2013.'