Kimberley: The Process of Redemption

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The moment the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Witness linked diamonds and African wars, it altered the diamond industry forever. The term “conflict diamonds” was coined, the age of the Kimberley Process (KP) was ushered in and the search for redemption began. The diamond industry, along with governments around the globe, is desperate to exclude conflict and illegal diamonds from legitimate diamond distribution channels so as not to further tarnish the image of diamonds and threaten the livelihoods of so many who are dependent on them.

At the start of the latest KP plenary meeting, held in South Africa from April 28 to 30, 2003, Chairman Abbey Chikane stated: “We hope that by the end of the session we will have consolidated our hard-earned achievements and move towards ending illicit trade.” A post-meeting analysis shows that the process will be ongoing and far from perfect.


At the meeting, NGOs and industry and governmental representatives once again disagreed over the much-debated issue of independent monitoring. NGOs are calling for random, periodical missions to be carried out on each participating country. They are also concerned that a number of countries, which have been attending meetings of the Kimberley Process since its inception in 2000, have failed to introduce laws and regulations to implement the Scheme.

Industry and government representatives feel equipped to carry out self-regulation. They also believe the KP rules governing investigations are sufficient. Corinna Gilfillan, a Global Witness campaigner, however, explains that the governments and industry are only examining certificates and legislation — not what that legislation does. She adds that independent monitoring is meant to assist countries without adequate resources to enforce the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). To the deep disappointment of the NGOs, no consensus was reached and the subject was delayed for further discussion at the next KP meeting in October 2003. This is an indication that the industry is reluctant to interfere with governments and is all too keen to see the process completed. Although Sean Cohen, president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), agrees that implementation is “not a five-minute process” and that “there is a lot of work to be done by member countries to ensure harmonization and standardization among them and to agree to an exact methodology in order to do business.” It is now, Cohen adds, “mostly a government process.”

World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) President Shmuel Schnitzer echoes this sentiment: “While we condemn any illicit trade in diamonds, we have neither the tools nor experience to become an international law-enforcement authority.”

Some within the industry feel that the KP lacks a “Phase Two” and that the mandate of the Process was to tackle conflict diamonds, nothing more, nothing less. De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer is adamant that “we must do all we can within Kimberley, as agreed by all parties, to prevent the abuse of diamond resources…. In order to do this, there is no need to extend or exceed the mandate or to set up Kimberley 2.”


Undoubtedly, there were achievements. Governments agreed to report statistics, establish rules of procedure and review countries’ abilities to implement the scheme. The Scheme’s first review mission will visit the Central African Republic (CAR) to evaluate if the new government can implement the KPCS effectively.

According to Israel’s Diamond Controller, Udi Sheintal, the ability of the KP to write the first guidelines for a review mission “proves to the NGOs that we are putting effort into monitoring. The emphasis is that it is a review mission, not a decision whether to kick them out or not.”

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the plenary meeting was to set a deadline of July 31 for participants to implement the KP regulations. If they fail, Chikane warned, they will “face a trading ban from other participants” and “not be able to have access to international markets.”

Another achievement was the creation of a Participation Committee. KP participants are to be divided into two groups: participants and applicants. Countries not adhering to all KP guidelines will be demoted to applicants, resulting in a loss of voting power. All new countries joining the KPCS will be applicants for three months, after which they will be promoted to participants by the Chair and receive a full vote.

According to Eli Izhakoff, World Diamond Council (WDC) chairman, the establishment of this committee addresses “astute complaints by the NGOs that any sovereign state can become a member, which would make the KP a sham. Countries could meet all KP regulations, print certificates and then use the system to cheat.” To prove its selectivity, the Plenary has denied Liberia membership until the United Nations (UN) Security Council lifts its diamond trade embargo on the country.

Stats and Criteria

Recognizing the need to gather statistics to monitor the effectiveness of the Scheme, the Working Group for Statistics was established. This group will put in place measures to collect and compile data required for the first quarter of 2003 by the KPCS and guarantee clear and constant definitions, concepts, operating procedures and standards in the KPCS. The Group will flag participants with anomalous statistics and report this information to other Working Groups through the Chair.

Technical Problems

The Working Group Diamond Experts’ role lies mainly in providing technical solutions to implementation problems. They have already found “areas of confusion” and “real errors” related to uncertainty on how to adapt the KPCS to specific cases. The group reported that some problems are occurring “where the KP certificate brushes against existing international customs practices or agreements.”

One such problem is that there is no agreement on the value of the shipment that has to be recorded on the KP certificate. Some shipments are being undervalued, others overvalued. The group concluded that “the mention of the value in U.S. dollars on the KP certificate is not in all cases sufficient to properly identify the shipment.” Again, this issue will be dealt with at the next plenary.

Another serious problem involves mentioning the “country of origin” on certificates. If, for example, a shipment of rough is exported from a trading center and is of “mixed origin,” a country of origin is not mentioned. This has led to refusal of import by participants where “unknown” or “mixed” is not allowed on customs declarations. The suggestion to use the term “country of extraction” instead of “origin,” did not reach consensus.

Another problem is that some participants issue certificates lacking any security features. In these cases, it is not always clear whether the issued certificate is an original or a copy. There is clearly a need for certificates that are “tamper- and forgery-resistant.”

Kimberley and Beyond

What happens to countries destroyed by wars funded by diamonds once all KP regulations are in place and the illicit diamond trade stops? Is this where the moral duty of the industry ends? The Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg last year was a global initiative to ensure that mining companies benefit the communities in which they find themselves. Mining companies, however, are only attracted to peaceful countries with basic infrastructure and development. Those countries recently emerging from war have neither. The question remains as to whether the consolidation of the KPCS will finally redeem the diamond industry — or will it only relieve its conscience?

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