Ian Smillie, Chair of DDI, on Kimberley Process: "Fix what doesn't work"

Opinion piece
06/04/2017 17:55

Continuing the published opinions on whether or not the Kimberley Process (KP) is "bullshit" - in the words of Martin Rapaport - JCK's Rob Bates invited Ian Smillie, chaair of the Diamond Development Initiative, president of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development and formerly one of the key architects of the Kimberley Process, to respond to Brad Brooks-Rubin's response to Rapaport's original provocation. The essence of Smillie's argument is that indeed, the KP is flawed and is perhaps not working, but Brooks-Rubin's 'cure' for what ails it amounts to cutting out the heart of the KP rather than repairing it. "Brooks-Rubin concludes, 'It is better that the KP evolve rather than completely collapse.' And who could possibly argue with that? What he suggests, however, is not an evolution; it’s a dismantling of the KP’s primary function: a global effort to end the underground diamond economy," writes Smillie.

Where Brooks-Rubin argues it is a waste of time and money to demand and issue KP certificates in the vast majority of diamond-producing countries where conflict diamonds are no longer an issue, Smillie say he, "skips lightly over the history of conflict diamonds, however, and why the KP was constructed as it is. The purpose of the KP was to end diamond-fueled conflict. The means was a global certification system to prevent tainted goods being dropped into the supply chain at any point in the long journey a rough diamond makes from the mine to manufacture." While this system is flawed, Brooks-Rubin's solution is worse. "He proposes that because the KP isn’t working, 'honesty' should be the focus in supply chain due diligence. That option, I’m afraid, is a little dated."

According to Smillie, "The challenge in reforming the KP is not to abandon, but to fix what doesn’t work. It is about addressing problems 'where they are actually occurring.' This means much better monitoring in places where borders are porous and where records are suspicious, and it requires meaningful correctives everywhere non-compliance is found." He concludes, "Of course, it is easy to propose that the KP 'evolve,' as Brooks-Rubin suggests, and as I do here, but that will only happen if its member states are willing to be open in dealing with their own and with one another’s failings. It will also require an alternative to the KP’s unworkable 'consensus decision-making' which allows every one of its 54 member states a veto on any proposal, of any kind. Without changing that, there will be no serious evolution."