10 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Victory for Zim As West's 'Conflict Diamonds' Bid Flops

EFFORTS by Western countries and civic society groups to expand the definition of conflict diamonds failed to garner support at a Kimberley Process meeting held in South Africa last week. The opposing nations argued that the proposed reforms were not being "objectively pursued". Botswana, which chairs the review committee, joined Russia, India, United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe and South Africa in rejecting the proposals.

They all said there was no "justifiable basis" for the reforms. It is understood that China, too, opposes the reforms, although it was not represented.

The expanded definition seeks to include diamond-related violence in rough diamond-producing and trading areas.

The review, being pushed by the US, Canada, the European Union and civic society groups, also wants the definition to go beyond the activities of rebel movements.

"The move to push for the reforms has been strongly resisted because there is a general understanding that there is no justifiable basis . . . they are ambiguous," said a source soon after the meeting.

"The argument is that the reforms must not be done by a desire to settle (political) scores. They must be pursued objectively," he said. Zimbabwe fell out with Western countries after embarking on land reform to resettle black people farming on land not suitable for agriculture.

Analysts have argued that the expanded definition of conflict diamonds was targeting Zimbabwe, as Western countries continued to push to keep Marange diamonds out of the market.

"With these allegations of human rights abuses in Marange, the expanded definition seems to be targeting Zimbabwe just to keep the diamonds out of the market," said one analyst.

"It is encouraging that the move is being resisted by several KP member countries."

The KP was formed when Southern African diamond-producing nations met in South Africa to discuss ways of preventing trade in "conflict diamonds".

Their plan was to ensure the gems were not traded to finance the activities of rebel movements seeking to undermine legitimate governments.

In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. By November 2002, negotiations between governments, the international diamond industry and civic society organisations resulted in the creation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Last year, Zimbabwe was finally given the green light to freely resume export of diamonds from Marange, within the Kimberley Process framework. However, because of economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, diamonds from Marange are still not traded in Europe and the US.

Despite the impediments in diamond exports, Zimbabwe grew its production of diamonds by 1 000 percent in three years to 11,1 million carats in last year at a time

when the country was facing extreme domestic and international impediments. The country has emerged as an important diamond producer. Based on reports from

companies operating in Marange, and including production from Murowa and River Ranch, Zimbabwe is capable of producing 14,5 million carats of gem and near gem quality diamonds in the next two years. These diamonds would have a value of US$US1,7 billion at current prices.

Analysts say Zimbabwe will experience the biggest gain in production in the forecast period, becoming the second largest producer in 2018 after more than doubling market share to 17 percent. Australia, Russia and Zimbabwe will account for two-thirds of world output growth in the forecast period.

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