Washington DC — SOUTH AFRICA, the incoming chair of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, yesterday urged the international community to support Zimbabwe's efforts to benefit from rich diamond resources, saying the nation's growing status as a major gem producer cannot be ignored.
Addressing the KPCS plenary at the US State Department here, South Africa's Minister of Mineral Resources Ms Susan Shabangu, implored KPCS members to "stand together as a family and support initiatives to ensure that emerging economies effectively reap the benefit of the exploitation of their diamond resources".
"I recently had the honour of addressing executives from the diamond industry during Zimbabwe's Diamond Conference hosted at Victoria Falls in November 2012. The conference sought to explore the changing dynamics of the industry and to explore modalities to best enable Zimbabwe to optimise exploitation of its rich diamond resources," she said.
Minister Shabangu said the KP has recorded significant strides, achieving representation in 76 countries and accounting for 99,8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds.
"It can further point out the fact that the flow of conflict diamonds has been significantly contained through KPCS interventions, resulting in more than 99 percent of the global diamond production being certified under the Kimberley Process.
"A significant number of member-states are now realising benefits from their legitimate trade of diamonds through which the KP played an important role for these jurisdictions to achieve a conflict-free diamond trade status," she added.
Addressing the same meeting, the United States government yesterday intensified calls for the redefinition of conflict diamonds, saying the KPCS must reform or lose relevance.
The US chair of the KPCS, Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, said it was vital to ensure the 76-member diamond watchdog remained "strong and relevant".
Her statement was received with skepticism by non-Western members of the KP, who view the US push as a ploy to bully some diamond-producing nations, particularly in Africa.
Currently, the KPCS defines conflict diamonds as "rough diamonds used by rebel movements to fight legitimate governments".
The US is lobbying for a redefinition to "rough diamonds used to finance armed conflict or other situations relating to violence affecting diamond-mining areas".
Mrs Milovanovic, a vastly experienced diplomat who has served in Botswana, Mali, Macedonia, South Africa and Sweden, spiced her speech with conciliatory phrases to draw support from KPCS member-countries.
"We have designed this plenary as a forum for the exchange of ideas, concerns, proposed solutions, and generally as a window of opportunity to focus the wealth of experience and expertise each one of you can provide on addressing the challenges of keeping the KP strong and relevant," she said.
She added: "As chair, I have frequently stressed that 'take it or leave it' is not our approach."
President of the World Diamond Council, Mr Eli Izhakoff, told the plenary that the Zimbabwe Diamond Conference was historic.
"The Zimbabwe Diamond Conference was a remarkable gathering that, just two years earlier, few would have predicted could have been possible. The conference would never have taken place were it not for the agreement reached at the last Kimberley process plenary in Kinshasa, in November 2011, which enabled the start of exports from two KP-compliant mines in the Marange region of Zimbabwe," said Mr Izhakoff.
The KP plenary continues until Thursday, with closed-door discussions spearheaded by various working groups on monitoring, reform, artisanal and alluvial mining statistics.