Africa: U.S. Diamond Declaration Incorporates Development Goals

Washington — The international body charged with ending the sale of diamonds related to conflict adopted a resolution that incorporates development and small-scale diamond-mining objectives.

The resolution, called the Washington Declaration, is "a noteworthy achievement," said Gregory Myers, head of the land tenure and property rights division at the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID's Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development program worked to help the body, called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, recognize that economic development has a role in bringing rough diamonds into legitimate supply chains, according to a November 30 USAID press release.

Participants in the Kimberley Process meeting November 27-30 at the State Department delayed redefining the term "conflict diamond" until at least 2013, when the body's chairmanship transfers to South Africa, with China as vice chair, said Gillian Milovanovic, who represents the United States as the 2012 chair.

Human rights groups had been pushing for the definition to be expanded to cover all forms of violence, not just those involving rebel groups trying to unseat legitimate governments.

According to a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the KP admitted Panama, Kazakhstan and Cambodia as participants following the admission in August of Cameroon. The body now consists of 54 participants representing 80 countries, with the European Union counting as one participant.

The KP also agreed to accept the offer of the World Diamond Council to supply administrative support to the body for one year, starting January 1, 2013, Milovanovic said. The diamond industry had long advocated that the body have such support, said WDC President Eli Izhakoff.

In another decision, the KP lifted its 2011 requirement that Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields be monitored to ensure that no abuses are taking place. Allegations of violence and worker mistreatment led the KP in 2009 to ban diamond sales from Marange mines.

The KP also noted that Zimbabwe, a KP participant, is willing to give civil society members access to Marange fields. It encouraged the country to continue the good practices it developed during 2012.

At the three-day session, representatives of Venezuela said the country intends to reintegrate into the KP, according to the communiqué. However, the KP gave Venezuela an April 1 deadline to submit accurate statistics and to complete a successful participant review mission.

The body noted that in 2012 it had received annual reports from 49 participants. It welcomed commitments by South Africa, Liberia, Togo, Armenia, Guyana, Vietnam and Russia to open their certification systems to its review teams, according to the communiqué.

In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme started when African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2003, to discuss ways to stop the trade in what are known as conflict diamonds and to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebels and their allies seeking to undermine internationally accepted governments.

The Kimberley Process is open to all countries that are willing and able to implement its requirements. The World Diamond Council, representing the international diamond industry, and civil society organizations like Partnership-Africa Canada participate in the KP.

Milovanovic said that as 2012 chair, the United States put the Kimberley Process "on a path to remaining relevant ... to reflect the way the world has changed in the last 10 years and, indeed, the way we expect that the world will continue to change."

"The KP has been successful in preventing diamonds that fund rebel groups from entering global supply chains. This achievement has played a valuable role in diminishing those conflicts the KP was concerned with during its establishment, and has contributed to maintaining the reputation of diamonds as symbols of purity, devotion and enduring love," she said.

More information is available on the Kimberley Process website, and the USAID press release is on USAID's website.

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