U.N. Assembly Adopts Resolution on Role of Diamonds in Fuelling Conflict

World News
09/03/2018 15:50

The United Nations General Assembly, welcoming progress made by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to break links between the diamond trade and conflict, on March 7 adopted a consensus resolution aimed at intensifying that work and aligning it with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, introduced the draft resolution titled, “The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:  breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts” (document A/72/L.41).  Noting that Australia was the outgoing Chair of the Kimberley Process — established by the United Nations in 2003 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream market — she said that scheme had made a valuable contribution to international security, development and human rights. 

“Fifteen years ago […] the global diamond trade looked very different than that of today,” she said.  At that time, diamonds were mined in conflict zones, while at the other end of the supply chain, customers had little or no way to know where the diamonds had originated.  The Kimberley Process cut the flow of diamonds to insurgencies and rebel groups, who would sacrifice peace and development for their own power.  By safeguarding the legitimate diamond trade, it improved the livelihoods of those relying on it to feed and educate their families.

Noting that young people today were three times more likely than older generations to avoid diamonds unless they had been responsibly sourced, she nevertheless emphasized that more work remained to be done.  The international community should examine new ways to align the diamond trade with the 2030 Agenda and sustaining peace, and should seek a diamond market free from human rights abuses and forced labour.  The resolution was a critical link between the Kimberley Process’ excellent work and its potential to contribute to the broader United Nations agenda by requesting the establishment of a dedicated secretariat and a multi‑donor trust fund to support broad‑based participation.

“The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:  breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts” (document A/72/L.41)

The statement (full statement available here) starts by, "Recognizing that the trade in conflict diamonds continues to be a matter of serious international concern, which can be directly linked to the fuelling of armed conflict, the activities of rebel movements aimed at undermining or overthrowing legitimate Governments and the illicit traffic in and proliferation of armaments", as well as, "the devastating impact of conflicts fuelled by the trade in conflict diamonds on the peace, safety and security of people in affected countries, and the systematic and gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated in such conflicts", but quickly notes, "that the vast majority of rough diamonds produced in the world are from legitimate sources, recalling that the elimination of conflict diamonds from legitimate trade is the primary objective of the Kimberley Process, and stressing the need to continue its activities in order to achieve this objective." 

The U.N. further, "Acknowledg[es] the successful role that the Kimberley Process has played, in the last 15 years, in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds and the valuable developmental impact it has had in improving the lives of most people dependent on the trade in diamonds, acknowledging also that the diamond sector is an important catalyst for promoting economic and social development, which are necessary for poverty reduction and meeting the requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals in many producing countries, particularly in developing countries." It also "Not[es] with satisfaction that the implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme continues to have a positive impact in reducing the opportunity for conflict diamonds to play a role in fuelling armed conflict and helps to protect legitimate trade and ensure the effective implementation of the relevant resolutions on trade in conflict diamonds." 

In response, the European Union issued a statement reading, "The EU is honoured to have been selected as the chair of the Kimberley Process for 2018. The European Union has been at the forefront of the Kimberley process from the very start and we will continue to strive for the Kimberley Process to continue fulfilling its role as a unique tool for conflict prevention and a catalyst for good governance and transparency in natural resources management. Through its 2018 Chairmanship, the EU will work to ensure the Kimberley remains fit for purpose in a changing world, addressing contemporary challenges including challenges due to instability and conflict and seizing the opportunity to help ensure the KP remains an effective instrument of peace and prosperity."

"In particular", it reads, "the EU will promote an open dialogue between the three pillars that make up the Kimberley Process - governments, industry and civil society – with a view to forging consensus around the reform agenda and to enhancing the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process, both in terms of peace building and conflict prevention and in terms of promotion of in-country due diligence. The EU is strongly committed to contribute to the implementation of the "Washington Declaration’ on artisanal and small-scale diamond mining. Human conditions in mining and the prosperity of producing communities are key concerns. The EU will support capacity-building efforts in areas relevant to compliance with KP requirements and will assess how the Kimberley process can best contribute to the implementation of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in producing countries to promote economic and social development and prosperity."

World Diamond Council Remarks at Kimberley Process Panel Discussion

Stephane Fischler, Acting President of the World Diamond Council, made the following opening remarks at the U.N. panel discussion on March 7, entitled: “The Kimberley Process, sustaining peace and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: the diamond industry as a model for transforming lives.”

The first ever mineral-based global mechanism to contribute to settling armed conflicts, the KP has over its relatively young life significantly contributed to peace and security, and so, enabling the diamond industry to support and create employment, income and livelihoods for millions of people. A vast number of diamond industry companies and their principals have shown for decades that “diamonds” do transform lives. From the prime examples of Botswana and Yakutia in the Russian Federation, to even the smallest companies in India, Belgium, Israel, the US and many others. The impact has been impressive for some countries and most important to their indigent communities. Some have shown that the responsible management of minerals is material to socio economic development. Others have unfortunately failed and too often done so with dire consequences.

The risk of conflict fueled by a mix of lack of capacity, transparency, toxic politics, corruption, greed, outside intervention and the presence of precious minerals such as diamonds, gold, coltan and others is ongoing. But it need not to be that way.

As the voice of industry in the KP, the WDC believes that in this important year of KP Review, there are three areas in urgent need of reform:

1. Expanding the meaning and scope of conflict diamonds to increase the likelihood of safe and secure working conditions, fair labor practices and sustainable development in diamond communities.

2. Adding a permanent secretariat in a neutral country, a crucial role for strengthening the long-term implementation of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme by improving the implementation of KP agreed decisions, more effectively restoring KPCS implementation in sanctioned countries and better supporting development projects in Participant countries.

3. Strengthening the KPCS minimum standards by making the peer review mechanism stronger.

These changes will be critical in the path to peace and long term change in the lives of millions who are today denied their basic rights to a secure and decent livelihood. To do so, there must be recognition and governance by those entrusted by the people for the people. Through proper governance and the ethical conduct managing and delivering and maintaining, at a bare minimum basic services and infrastructure comes trust. When trust is earned, people feel respected and empowered and the feeling of nation building is secured. Those who achieved this trust now have the right tools to long term and sustainable development: confidence and care. Duty of care, from top to bottom, between the minister of mines to the actual miner and all participants along the chain.

The diamond industry in all its facets, from mine to finger, is represented in the KP by the World Diamond Council and we understand our duties and responsibilities. But the WDC is too often confused with a development agency, conflict prevention specialists, or even government agents. We are none of those things. We cannot accept to be laden with the failures of those whose responsibilities these are. And yet we never disengaged from the KP nor from the challenges of artisanal diamond mining. We continue to push for change from the inside, even though we must do so indirectly, as observers, in an environment of complicated processes involving many actors and an incredible amount of mitigating factors. Being here at the UN you all understand better than anyone the challenges encountered and our mixed feelings of hope and commitment, but also frustration.

Fortunately, the vast majority of diamond mining countries have delivered well documented and lasting change for millions of men, women, and children. A minority has so far failed to deliver on the enormous potential for good that defines diamonds, while the others stay focused on adding and sharing value. But there is hope to drive change, and we are encouraged by the KP decision, achieved by consensus under the Australian chairmanship led by Robert Owen-Jones assisted by Nick Williams, to secure a 2-year review and reform process which will start under the EU chairmanship and followed by the Indian chairmanship. We thank Angola for having accepted to co-chair this important responsibility. But we need leaders on the ground to make it happen.

The WDC would like again to thank The PR China, the EU, India, Russia and the US who have given their strong support to the Chair and our African partners to engage in this review and reform process. It must now deliver. To the Civil Society Coalition, thank you for our recent meeting and the very open and fair exchange of ideas. Now led and overwhelmingly represented by African-based NGOs, it has shared with us its focus and mission on securing lasting changes to benefit the artisanal diamond communities. Making sure those most at risk and affected become full participants in the value chain. A goal around which the industry and its partners are fully aligned on. The Kimberley Process definition of conflict diamonds has provided the necessary focus to drive important change. But it is an unfortunate truth that the nature of what constitutes conflict has evolved. We want to reiterate that we, unequivocally support change and believe it is necessary to achieve the goals describe above. We acknowledge that this will be a difficult and challenging task ahead. Creating a new definition that would secure preventive actions on the ground.

But it only takes a few good women and men securing the trust of their people to drive change. We are fortunate to have some of them with us. Let us make sure the reform process will change the few of the past into the many of the future and help these countries secure their rightful place and achieve the best value from their mineral resource wealth among the Botswana’s, Namibia’s, South-Africa’s, Russia’s, Canada’s, Australia’s of the diamond mining industry. Thank you again for the opportunity to represent a very proud industry as we continue to fight for the needed reform efforts within the Kimberley Process.

The WDC was represented by: Marie-Chantal Kaninda, executive director WDC board members; Gaetano Cavalieri, President of the International Jewelry Federation-CIBJO; Ronnie Vander Linden, President of the US Jewelry Council; Dave Bonaparte CEO of Jewelers of America; David Bouffard of Signet Jewelers; and Tiffany Stevens, CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.