Differences that have sometimes led to flaring tempers among government members of the international diamond trade watchdog the Kimberley Process (KP) are now expected to deepen, over pressure on the group to reform.
KP members were gathered in Washington this week for a four day meeting, tabling some of the issues set to be dealt with at a later session in November. Chief among these issues is the need for the KP to reform, and broaden its monitoring mandate to encompass human rights abuses.
Currently, the KP's certification scheme acts as a guarantee that diamonds are not funding civil war or rebel movements, as was seen in Sierra Leone before the body was formed in 2003. But, as has since been seen in Zimbabwe, this definition of 'conflict diamonds' does not take into account the human rights abuses committed by a 'legitimate' government in control of mining areas.
Following international condemnation and criticism over its failure to adequately deal with human rights abuses, particularly at the Chiadzwa diamond fields, the KP is now under pressure to reform.
KP Chair, the US's Gillian Milovanovic said earlier this week that this was critical for the KP's future, a sentiment then echoed by a US State Department Official. Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor said the KP "is now at a critical juncture."
"For it to succeed going forward, it will need to take bold steps to meet the expectations of member governments, industry, civil society and consumers, on whose purchases the diamond industry depends...Updating the definition will make the KP more credible, relevant, and effective and able to anticipate the challenges of the future," Posner said.
But the now traditional rift between Western states and others has again been seen, with the US backed call for reform reportedly being rejected by some governments present at the KP meeting.
It has been reported that African and Asian states sided together to block this call, during a closed door session at the Washington meeting.