What is the Kimberley Process?
The KP is a tripartite initiative composed of governments, diamond industry players and civil society organizations (CSOs). It was created to both protect the image of diamonds by keeping them free of association with violent conflict and to prevent rebel movements from obtaining and using diamond revenues to fund insurgencies and undermine governments.
To achieve these objectives, the KP oversees a certification scheme for rough diamonds. Members must adhere to minimum requirements that regulate various aspects of the trade, such as production, trading partners and import and export procedures.
However, the KP, which is approaching its 10th anniversary, has been accused of dropping the ball on numerous occasions, such as with issues involving the Ivory Coast, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. And its critics argue that the KP has grown increasingly out of touch, irrelevant and ineffective.
Global Witness quits the Kimberley Process
Global Witness (GW), which played a key role in establishing the KP, quit its role in the initiative last year. GW said the KP’s refusal to evolve and address clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered the KP increasingly outdated.
“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes,” said Charmian Gooch, a founding director of GW, in a press release. GW even went so far as to call the KP “an accomplice to diamond laundering — whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”
Reforming the Kimberley Process
Even within the KP, the need for reform is widely recognized and the KP is supposed to be undergoing a self review.
“Why we feel there are changes needed, however, is that a certain number of the procedures or the definitions that were very well adapted to the situation ten years ago and we believe are no longer as current as they need to be in order to be able to maintain the consumer confidence and do the job everyone wants the Kimberley Process to do,” Gillian Milovanovic, KP chair, said during a web chat.
Part of the challenge for the KP is that what people want it to do varies. Arguably one of the most important changes that the KP needs to make is to redefine what a conflict diamond is. The KP’s definition of conflict has not evolved beyond its initial focus on rebel activity, which critics insist is far too narrow.
“It is the definition of conflict diamonds that underpins the KP’s ability to act decisively in the face of unacceptable and criminal behaviour; to censure, to demand improvement, and, if needed, expel a country,” said Alan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada at the World Diamond Council’s annual meeting.
However, one of the problems there is that some are pushing for expansion into territory that the KP has resisted entering, such as a human rights.
Welcoming the opportunity to offer clarity on this subject, the KP chair told web chat participants that “admittedly, conflict clearly has something to do with human rights because people suffer when there is conflict, but human rights per se is not the focus. Human rights is implicit but it’s conflict and still would be with the changed definition.”
If diamonds are not at the core of a conflict, Milovanovic added, then the conflict is not something for the KP to deal with.
The KP holds an annual meeting, the plenary, where decisions are made. This year it was in Washington, DC from November 27 to 30. While there were numerous considerations on the agenda, for many, the most anticipated was the discussion of the definition of conflict diamonds.
Though KP members from the diamond industry and CSOs are included in the decision-making process, only governments get to vote. Changes, such as the proposed update of the definition of conflict diamonds, are made upon consensus.
“We were not able to reach the point where we saw agreement on a text,” Milovanovic reportedly said at a press conference after the meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, she said that what she saw as important and was pleased about was more engagement from countries, parts of the industry and individuals who in the past sat back and didn’t feel they should participate and didn’t feel they should make their views known. “Now we’re really getting into a lot of good exchange, a lot of engagement and I think that will be a critical achievement,” she said.
The fact that the definition of conflict diamonds remains the same is likely a disappointment for many and will almost certainly provide fodder for further criticism of the KP.
“Ultimately, however, the KP holds its fate in its own hands. If it squanders the current opportunity to address systemic problems that have plagued it — with greater consequences each time — then it will seal its own irrelevancy. More people will reconsider their engagement with the KP and the reflection will shine a bright and unflattering light on the industry as a whole,” Martin warned earlier this year.
Securities Disclosure: I, Michelle Smith, do not hold equity interest in any companies mentioned in this article.