27 November 2012

Africa: Kimberley Process Meeting May Redefine 'Conflict Diamonds'

Washington — Participants in an international group that certifies that rough-cut diamonds are free from conflict are expected to update the definition of "conflict diamond" during the group's four-day annual meeting in Washington.

Those participating in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme plenary meeting November 27-30 at the State Department also will decide on other actions to ensure that legitimate trade in diamonds continues, said Gillian Milovanovic, who represents the United States as the 2012 chair of the process. This is the first time the United States has served as chair.

"We need to do everything in our power to keep the [Kimberley Process] relevant and effective so that 'diamond' remains synonymous with love and commitment," Milovanovic said.

The Kimberley Process, or KP, was formed in 2003 when African diamond producers met in Kimberley, South Africa, to discuss ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds. The process is open to countries willing to adopt legislation and institutions to certify that rough diamonds have not been associated with conflict and to prevent diamonds involved in conflict from entering legitimate trade. Representatives of industry and civil society serve as observers to the KP. Unlike the case in some international efforts, changes to the Kimberley Process must be adopted by consensus.

As of August 2012, the KP has 51 participants representing 77 countries. (The European Union and its member states count as a single participant.) Nearly all of the global production of rough diamonds comes from KP members.

Participants can only legally trade with other participants who have met the minimum requirements of the scheme. International shipments of rough diamonds must be accompanied by a KP certificate guaranteeing that they are conflict-free.

Under the current definition, a "conflict diamond" is a rough diamond used by a rebel movement or its allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining a legitimate government.

In opening the meeting, Milovanovic cited progress made by the KP in 2012, beginning with a focus on the implementation and enforcement of legitimate diamond trade.

During 2012 the KP standardized a system of sharing with KP participants and the World Customs Organization fraudulent certificates that claimed a diamond was conflict-free. It also arranged for the World Customs Organization and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to hold a daylong seminar for customs officials during the plenary meeting.

The diamond industry also is working to firm up legitimate trade in diamonds, Jose Fernandez, U.S. assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, said at the start of the meeting. "Industry is aware of the danger that conflict diamonds present and is taking action in its own way in order to complement the Kimberley Process," he said, citing the Responsible Jewelry Council, which has set up a voluntary chain-of-custody certification system covering ethical and environmental practices that "extends from the mine site to the family-owned retail boutique to the Fortune 500 megastore."

Milovanovic said the Kimberley Process gained significant financial support in 2012 from the World Diamond Center in Antwerp that allowed it to expand its website, which enhanced its transparency and communications with members, the media and the public. It added a development and assistance component to the site to match members requesting technical assistance with members able to provide the expertise, she said.

The KP also started a monthly technical assistance newsletter to expand the sharing of technical expertise. It worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop a tool kit for stakeholders such as diamond cutters and polishers to ensure that artisanal mining sites are not producing diamonds associated with violence, Milovanovic said.

"Integrating development into diamond production by artisanal and alluvial producers reduces the potential for conflict and has the possibility of improving lives for those who are at the very beginning of the supply chain," she said.

The KP expanded during 2012, adding Cameroon as a participant in August, she noted. In addition, Panama and Kazakhstan have hosted visits by KP experts as a step toward possible admission, Cambodia submitted required documentation and will be discussed at the plenary meeting, and Mali and Kenya are expected to join the KP within the near future, Milovanovic said.

"The KP's actions affect the livelihoods of millions of people around the world," Milovanovic said. "We need to do everything in our power to keep the KP relevant and effective so that 'diamond' remains synonymous with love and commitment. A robust diamond market continues to help millions of people pursue a better quality of life."

More information is available on the Kimberley Process website.

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