How often do we wonder where the diamond in our engagement or wedding ring is from? How much do we know about the people who extracted and processed it? How and where can we get this information and what is hidden behind such a bright and glittering stone?
Many African countries have huge diamond reserves, and quite often the producers of these unbreakable stones break the law. In some politically unstable African states revolutionary groups holds control of diamond mines and use incomes from diamond sales to finance their operations. These diamonds are known as “conflict” or “blood diamonds”. In response to public concerns coming mostly from diamond purchasers, the United Nations and diamond-trading countries introduced the Kimberley Process in 2003. The Kimberley Process aims to ensure that diamonds for sale are not controlled by such criminal groups and that the stones are clean in terms of observance of human rights and do not fund criminal or revolutionary activities. In other words, diamond-producing countries are required to provide proof that their diamonds are clean, and after obtaining the Kimberley Process Certificate these diamonds can be sold on the world market. In 2012, there were 51 participants in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme representing 77 countries, including the European Union which counted as a single participant.
The Kimberley Process has been quite successful and the absolute number of conflict diamonds entering the market was reduced. However, after almost 10 years of existence of the organization the issue of blood diamonds is still prevalent and there is much criticism about it. One of the biggest shortcomings was highlighted when Global Witness, one of the founding organizations behind the Kimberley Process, pulled out of the scheme almost one year ago. They claimed that the Kimberley Process had failed its original purpose, as there are still conflict diamonds on the market. The only difference from before its introduction is that now, these diamonds are labelled “clean” according to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
There are two major obstacles in the way of effective monitoring of the diamond-producers. The first problem is relatively high possibility of smuggling diamonds across borders in African countries. Thus, diamonds from a conflict zone can be easily transferred to a “clean” country and finally find the legal way onto the global diamond market. The second obstacle is the violent nature of diamond extraction in many countries, where officially there is no war and whose diamonds are therefore also considered to be “clean”.
Charmian Gooch, the director of Global Witness Founding, commented on the Kimberley Process, saying: “The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.” Does this really mean that the Kimberley Process is just a barking watch-dog that doesn’t have teeth to bite?
On the one hand, all international organizations are always blamed for many things and there is always room for criticism – the Kimberley Process is not an exception. On the other hand, everyone should understand that such an organization, which is in fact a watch-dog, cannot cover all the issues as there will always be some loopholes. However, the organization obviously has to review and rewrite its goals and agendas and include many other aspects of diamond mining in their audit system, such as environmental issues, safe working conditions, human rights and labor standards. It will require further work and expansion of functions and activities of the organization, but that is the only way for it to become a successful example of a collective and multi-stakeholder solution to mismanagement in the diamond supply chain.
- Diamonds: Does the Kimberley Process work? by James Melik in BBC World Sevice, 28 June, 2010
- Global Witness leaves Kimberley Process, calls for diamond trade to be held accountable in http://www.globalwitness.org , 5 December, 2011
- London NGO Quits the Kimberley Process Over Thriving Blood-Diamond Trade by Greg Campbell in The Daily Beast, 7 December, 2011