The Story of Blood Diamonds and Kimberley Process

Some regions in Africa are rich in Diamonds. The Central African and West African countries are politically unstable. The violent revolutionary groups take control of the diamond mines. They sell the rough diamonds and from the proceeds the finance their operations. The money is used in purchasing arms and ammunitions. The major diamond companies have continuously fuelled this arms conflict. The rough diamond purchases of the bigger companies have contributed to the war and human rights abuses in these parts of Western Africa. These diamonds have been named as “Blood Diamonds” or “war diamonds”. Some other terms used are “conflict diamonds” and “hot diamonds” and “dirty diamonds”.

Blood diamonds or ‘conflict diamonds’ are rough diamonds illegally mined in conflict zones. The primary objective of the mining is to fund armed conflicts — typically between rebel outfits and the government. In the post-Cold War era, these precious stones are believed to have been instrumental in funding several conflicts in Africa. Instead of adding to the welfare of the people, the abundance of natural resources in African countries has resulted in corruption, instability of governments and civil wars. Global Witness, an NGO working on conflict minerals since 1993, alleges many of these diamonds are also used in money laundering. During the height of the mining, from the 90s to the late 2000s, blood diamonds resulted in many deaths and displaced millions.

Nearly all of these diamonds were alluvial — collected over extended areas along river beds. It’s very difficult to fence these sites.

The diamonds were extracted by small scale poverty driven mining in remote areas.

In addition, all the countries which had blood diamonds were poor with dysfunctional governments.

The production was controlled by warlords fighting the government.

The ‘legitimate’ governments of these countries thus hardly had control over them.

Fowler Report

The blood diamonds are no different from the normal rough diamonds. To differentiate the blood diamonds from the normal legitimate diamonds, there should be a well-structured ‘Certificate of Origin’ regime. This certificate of origin regime can work as an effective way of ensuring that only legitimate diamonds (from government controlled areas) reach to the market. Apart from this control is also required by the member states and members of the diamond industry.

In March 2000, a UN report was released which was prepared by a commission headed by Robert Fowler, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations. This report was called Folwer report. This Fowler report raised the concerns and detailed how the prestigious companies such a de bears and others including the African (mainly Angola) and European governments and the political wing of UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) were violating the Lusaka Protocol (i.e. a protocol which led to a ceasefire to end the Angolan Civil War) and violating the UN imposed sanctions leading to funding for conflicts. A very strong link between the illicit diamond trade and third world conflict was exposed by the Flower Report. In view of the public concerns, the United Nations, the diamond industry and diamond-trading nations introduced the Kimberley Process in 2002.

Kimberley Process

An initiative backed by producer countries, miners, jewellers and campaign groups, the Kimberley Process was set up in 2002 to control the use of rough diamonds to fund rebel movements and human rights abuses in places like Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. The certification scheme, brought in 2003, lays out requirements for controlling production and trade but allows rough diamond shipments to be branded “conflict-free.” The process was named after the South African city that was the birthplace of the modern diamond industry and where diamond producing states first met in 2000 to discuss the scheme. It is chaired by participating countries on rotation. The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently the chair.

Objectives of Kimberley Process

The objective of the Kimberley process is to stop the conflict diamonds to intermix with diamonds. The Kimberly Process needs a proof by the diamond producing countries that the money made by selling the diamonds would not be used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities. Kimberley Process has been moderately successful in limiting the number of conflict diamonds entering the market.

Members of Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process has 50 members representing 76 countries, with the European Union counting as one participant. Members account for 99.8 percent of global rough diamond production. Swaziland was the last country to join. Others, including Mali, Mozambique, Burkina Faso have also expressed an interest in signing up. Campaign groups have also played a major role but Global Witness, a key proponent and founding member, pulled out this week.

How does it work?

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme imposes requirements on its members, including national legislation and institutions; export, import and internal controls; transparency and exchanging data. Shipments of rough diamonds must be accompanied by a certificate to guarantee they are “conflict-free.” No member can import gems from a non-member.

Rough diamonds must be sent in tamper-proof containers with a certificate guaranteeing their origin and contents. The importing country must certify that the shipments have arrived unopened and reject any shipments that do not meet the requirements. Only countries that subscribe to the Kimberley Process are allowed to trade in rough diamonds.

Criticism

Many critics of Kimberley Process point that there is no way one can fingerprint diamonds, scientifically identifying its origin, and hence the scheme primarily works on verifying the footprints of the gem. In simple terms, the scheme tracks its place of origin. It works on mutual trust as it is not an international agreement from a legal perspective. The implementation is done by the local laws of its participants and hence many experts doubt its credibility. Also the process works on self-verification lacking any independent monitoring that can assess the performance of the participant countries. Thus, major flaw is that it is very easy to smuggle diamonds from African Borders. Another flaw is that some nations are not technically in a war state but still the mining in those countries is violent in nature. Apart from this Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is not legally binding and is voluntary in nature.

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