RAPAPORT… The Kimberley Process (KP) Working Group for Monitoring not only failed to reach a decision pertaining to Zimbabwe’s exports this week, but also did not achieve consensus regarding a proposal to include a human rights clause in the KP’s administrative decision on internal controls.
The human rights clause, proposed by civil society, significantly together with the diamond industry, sought to engender every KP participant to respect human rights when administering security measures and internal controls.
The proposal was not expected to be widely received. But even though it was rejected, with reported concerns from Russia, China, India and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the next KP chair, that such responsibility was beyond the KP mandate, the discussion was significant in that it at least brought the human rights issue to the table.
Continuation of this discussion should be central to the KP’s evolving agenda, which was so clearly called for at the opening session of this week’s plenary. More significantly, the discussion hopefully brought back some perspective to the Zimbabwe discussion which dominated the four day meeting.
Had it passed, such a clause would have clarified the manner in which the KP could have approached negotiations surrounding Zimbabwe’s participation and the country’s ability to export rough from the Marange fields. Perhaps that will eventually be Zimbabwe’s inadvertent legacy as similar human rights-related challenges are unfortunately sure to repeat themselves elsewhere.
In the mean time, it is easy to forget amidst the strategic private huddles at the Jerusalem meeting, that it is human rights abuses which were reported to have taken place at Marange that brought Zimbabwe into question.
It was only three years ago that Zimbabwe’s government forces embarked on “Operation Hakudzowkwi” (No Return), during which Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the army killed at least 214 miners. HRW this week reported that a large part of the fields remain under the control of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, “who harass and intimidate the local community and engage in widespread diamond smuggling.”
The group added that while violence had decreased in the fields, the army and police continued to commit abuses, which put Zimbabwe in violation of the minimum standards required for membership in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. That argument is not entirely correct since without the clause proposed by civil society and industry, the minimum standards do not extend beyond the KP conflict diamond definition referring to rebel groups obtaining weapons through the diamond trade.
As it stands, the KP does not have a mandate to deny its certification for diamonds involved in human rights violations and therefore there is no assurance that diamonds with KP certification are free of human rights violations.
Some at the KP plenary noted that the conflict diamonds era appears to have come to an end, ushering in the “development diamonds” era. This is a positive development which would require the KP to transform from a preventative organization into a proactive one. However, to achieve this requires a clear position from the KP regarding human rights as development cannot be achieved amidst human abuse. In fact, ensuring effective development of communities affected by the diamond industry is in itself a right they should be assured.
Such development rhetoric was clearly missing from Zimbabwe this week. Beyond its pledge that it has the right to sell its diamonds for the good of the people, there were no assurances of how that good would be achieved.
Zimbabwe’s inclusion in the KP family of members would be an easier pill to swallow if the country softened its language and strengthened its transparency regarding the Marange operations. Reports that five executives from the Zimbabwe Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC) and one from Canadile Miners, were arrested this week for fraudulently obtaining the Canadile concession does not help its cause.
If Zimbabwe is about to become the world’s largest diamond producer, it is absolutely in the KP’s interest, not to mention the industry’s, to know who is mining there and if their dealings are straight.
The failure to reach a decision this week was neither a victory for the KP nor for Zimbabwe. Both want the country to be included in the industry regulatory body. Ultimately, it is expected that a compromise will be reached. But what the deadlock reiterated was that the KP is very much an evolving organization suddenly trying to find its identity. If the conflict diamond era is indeed over, hopefully the efforts made this week to include a human rights clause as part of its mandate, signal a new and effective one.
The writer can be contacted at [email protected].
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