Friday, June 26, 2009

The Kimberley Process - what now?

The Kimberley Process is in trouble. Established in 2003, it is a joint initiative by governments, industry and civil society to prevent trade in conflict or ‘blood’ diamonds. Countries that participate pass legislation to enforce the Kimberley Process and set up control systems for the import and export of rough diamonds.

Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) was one of the key players in the creation of the Kimberley Process. Ian Smellie, a research co-ordinator with PAC, resigned earlier this month, unable to tolerate continued inaction by the Kimberley Process in the face of ongoing human rights abuses. Susanne Emond from PAC said "The Kimberley Process must fulfill its potential to ensure a clean diamond trade. We are calling on the diamond industry to join with us in demanding that governments enforce the scheme's rules with greater commitment and timeliness."

The sixth Intersessional meeting of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme took place this week in Windhoek, Namibia. There was significant concern that the Kimberly Process is not addressing serious cases of non compliance among members. An address by the World Diamond Council stated, “The fact is that to be truly effective, the Kimberley Process requires full political and logistical support from its member states and international institutions, and the wider international community. With only a few exceptions, there is little evidence to suggest that the Kimberley Process is receiving this level of support. It is therefore, unsurprising that events and activities associated with the illegal appropriation of valuable natural resources go unchecked.”

Human rights organizations are distressed about the continued abuses in Zimbabwe, Angola and the DRC among others. Venezuela’s government, for example, has promised to halt diamond smuggling, but it is still going on. The current situation in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields is being closely followed. In March, a team from the Kimberley Process visited Zimbabwe to discuss concerns about smuggling and illicit trade activities. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Secretariat reported ” The High Level Envoy Teams visit was a great success as the Team sternly delivered the intended message at a high level within the Government.”

However, Human Rights Watch released a report today, ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ which states “Following the discovery of diamonds in Marange in June 2006, the police and army have used brutal force to control access to the diamond fields and to take over unlicensed diamond mining and trading. Some income from the fields has been funneled to high-level party members of ZANU-PF, which is now part of a power-sharing government that urgently needs revenue as the country faces a dire economic crisis.”

The Kimberley Process is at a crossroads. As Annie Dunnebacke from Global Witness, said: "The clock is running out on Kimberley Process credibility. The work it was set up to do is vital - it would be scandalous if uncooperative governments and industry succeeded in hobbling it into ineffectiveness".

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