As the Kimberley Process Intersessional kicks off this morning in Mumbai, the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC) have made a forceful call to the KP Member States to finally address the issue of conflict diamonds, Continued violence in diamond production, it warns, threatens the relevance of the KP as well as long-term African diamond revenues by fuelling ethics concerns about the sector.
Despite two and a half years of the KP’s reform process, the KPCSC writes, there has not yet been any substantive discussion on proposals regarding the KP’s scope, nor on mechanisms to enable it to address diamond related violence impartially. The scheme’s relevance has long been challenged by NGOs, journalists and key industry players because it only addresses diamonds mined by rebels fighting governments to the exclusion of other conflict-related issues affecting the sector. Criticisms of the KP as convenient tool to legitimize a trade that has not rid itself of abuses have indeed only grown louder. A new definition introduced last year includes reference to “public security forces or private (including criminal or mercenary) armed groups”, as well as to “systemic and widespread violence, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and violations of international humanitarian law”. The Coalition is calling for it to be addressed.
Consumers expect ethical production
"Whilst diamonds are a potential development driver for African producers, in some contexts their production has continued to be mired by systemic violence or exploitation," the Coalition writes, singling out Angola and Zimbabwe for recent abuses. The KPCSC also reiterates the significance of ethical behavior to today's consumers: Consumers are being offered a wide range of alternatives to diamond purchases, and if they associate diamond consumption with harm they can turn away. “In this information age, its increasingly difficult to ignore links between diamonds and ethics issues like violence,” points out Shamiso Mtisi, KPCSC focal point and head of the Zimbabwean Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA). “The only way to counter these negative associations is to stop them from happening." “Most industry actors have understood the threat human rights issues pose to the natural diamond trade, and therefore to African development,” points out Filip Reyniers, director of Belgian-based KPCSC member IPIS. The World Diamond Council the Diamond Development Initiative and industry organizations
Indian manufacturers exploiting producers with conflict diamond issues
The KPCSC also pointed out a practice that has thus far remained out of the spotlight, namely, that of manufacturers taking advantage of the poor reputation of diamond producing countries to get a discount on their rough goods. They write, "African producers courting human rights controversy have continued to attract buyers, many exploiting the impact of ethics concerns on rough diamond prices. Indian traders have been particularly implicated. Industry insiders point out that certain Indian traders have been buying these cut price stones to maximise profits where their controversial origin is obscured by polishing. In April, a top official from India’s Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) stated this entity’s intention to establish direct links with Zimbabwe for diamond sourcing due to the “discounted rates” of these high quality stones, which would enable Surat’s smaller diamantaires to “maximise profits”. Such a perspective raises concerns about the exploitation of unethical practices for profit.
The KPCSC reports a lack of support for expanding the KP’s scope even among African states where human rights are not at issue. These states rely on the abuse-free status of their production for the marketing of their own stones. This creates little incentive for producers like Botswana to support the prevention of abuses elsewhere. The KPCSC highlights however that the unchecked continuation of violence after all these years risks eroding trust between consumers and diamonds as a product. Ultimately, “The responsibility lies with governments” concludes Shamiso Mtisi, KP Civil Society Coalition coordinator. “The KP is a government-run mechanism and if producer states don’t understand what a threat these abuses pose to the sustainability of their diamond sectors then the KP will not reform. We call upon governments in the KP to act urgently in answering calls from both consumers and communities for change through constructive engagement on reform of the KP’s mandate.”