KP conflict diamond debate mounts

PRESSURE is mounting on Kimberly Process (KP) members opposed to a proposed redefinition of what constitutes conflict diamonds after the World Diamond Council (WDC) this week reaffirmed its support for the move.

Taurai Mangudhla

Once approved, the new definition will come with new KP compliance terms.

The initiative, which is being promoted by Canada, the European Union and the United States, was shot down in October  by KP African member states including Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe as well as major diamond buying nations as India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates that argued it specifically targeted  Zimbabwe so as  to prevent its Marange diamond industry from competing fairly on the global market.

According to immediate past KP chair US Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic,  new desirable attributes included human rights, financial transparency, economic development, or other important questions that impact on the diamond sector through the exchange of best practices and voluntary initiatives. This was in addition to maintaining the previous focus on ensuring rough diamonds are free from armed conflict and armed violence.

Zimbabwe Environment Law Association (Zela) head of research Shamiso Mtisi said the proposed new definition remained  controversial in the KP, with influential countries such as China and Russia resisting change.

Mtisi is KP Certification Scheme’s local focal point nominee for Zimbabwe’s civil society.

He said Zela was in support of the proposed changes as they would improve diamond mining in Zimbabwe.

“If you look at the prevailing situation in Marange, it has improved to some extent but Zimbabwe could not be compliant under the new definition,” said Mtisi in an interview.

“We still have instances where diamonds are coming from areas where soldiers, police or private security guards are beating up people and civil society is saying state actors and non-state actors should desist from violence.”

The WDC consists of more than 50 members drawn from the diamond beneficiation and trading companies, and has influential representation on the KP’s working groups. The WDC fully supports  Milovanovic’s proposal to widen the definition of conflict diamonds to include rough diamonds used to finance, or otherwise are directly related to armed conflict or other situations of violence.

In an opening address to the WDC’s plenary session and annual meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel on Monday, WDC president Eli Izhakoff said the diamond business could in no way benefit from having its products directly associated with systematic violence. The tools and mechanisms of the KP had to be employed to make sure that this is never the case.

“As we have clearly articulated in the past, the WDC is in favour of reviewing the definition of the term “conflict diamonds” to ensure that it is relevant to the situations and the sentiments that are prevalent in the times in which we live,” said Izhakoff.

“It was for that reason we reacted positively to the proposal last year by the former KP chair, Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, during her speech to the eighth World Diamond Council in Vicenza, that the definition be expanded to include rough diamonds used to finance, or otherwise are directly related to armed conflict or other situations of violence,” added the WDC president.

“We also agreed with her qualification that “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, and that they should not be applicable to isolated, individual incidents, or to circumstances or situations in which an armed conflict exists but is unrelated to the diamond sector,” he added.

Izhakoff said implementation of the proposed definition and new compliance conditions were subject to discussion, leading eventually to agreement by consensus through a process that would require compromise on the part of players.

“The requirement that we act though consensus should never become an excuse for inaction. If we do not adapt to the changing environment, then we will surely lose our relevance.”

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