The term ‘conflict diamonds’ is not something new in the diamond industry. You must have surely come across this term whilst researching on diamonds or purchasing diamonds! Defined as diamonds which are mined in inhuman settings in war-torn countries and are used to fueled brutal wars, conflict diamonds have always remained a matter of much concern. It caused many a permanent scars to various nations and its people around the world. To stop the flow of conflict diamonds and in order to ensure that all the diamonds being shipped are ‘conflict free, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has been introduceds.
The Kimberley Process is basically an internationally recognized system, which aims at cutting down the worldwide flow of conflict diamonds or what is also known as blood diamonds which were extensively being used to finance armed conflicts. The problem was first brought to light in the year 1998 which eventually led to the establishment of the Kimberley Process. The initiative was taken by various Southern African states who assembled in Kimberley, South Africa in May 2000 to discuss and adopt ways to stop the trade of ‘conflict diamonds’.
The United Nations General Assembly in December 2000, supported the need of an international or a government authority led documention or certification scheme for conflict diamonds. By Novemember 2002, various negotiations between the civil society organizations, the international diamond industry and the governments culminated in the designing of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which eventually entered into effect in the year 2003. They have documented a set of requirements needed to control the production and trade of rough diamonds.
The Working of the Kimberley Process:
The Kimberley Process has issued a long list of requirements which the participating members need to follow in order to stamp rough diamonds as ‘conflict free’ and in order to stop the conflict diamonds from entering the allowable trade. As per the terms of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a minimum requirements should be met by the participating nations. They must also comply with the rules of the Kimberley Process which states that the participating members can only legally trade with other participating members who have also met the bare mininum set of requirements of the scheme. In addition, the shipping of the rough diamonds must be sent with a Kimberley Process Certificate which ensures that they are all conflict free diamonds.
Who is involved in the Kimberley Process?
Kimberley process welcomes the involvement of all countries who are willing to implement its set of requirements. As of July 2013, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme comprised of 54 participants that represented 81 countries. The European Union is considered as a single participant. The participants are basically countries that produce, exports and imports rough diamonds.
Limitations of the Kimberley Process:
The system has a very narrow definition of conflict diamonds. According to the Kimberley Process conflict diamonds are defined as ‘rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments’. This definition shows that the Kimberley Process concentrates solely on the issues centering around the mining and distribution of conflict diamonds. They do not address the broader issues concerning worker exploitation. It does not heed to issues like the health of the workers, safe working conditions, child labor, etc. It also does not address issues like evacuation of an entire population to give way to mining.
The limitations of the Kimberley Process Certification only imply that though it may not have funded any kind of war, it may still have links with killing, torture, beating, child labor or destruction of the population and the environment of the mining site. In other words, the Kimberley process does not work on stopping violence, exploitations of workers and environmental degradation.
The Kimberley Process is applicable to only the rough diamonds. This implies that once the stones are cut and polished, the scheme no longer applies.
The Kimberley Process deals with a batch or mass of rough diamonds which are then cut and transported around the world. It does not cater to an individual stone. The process does not trace diamonds to their mine of origin and hence if you inquire from your jeweler about the source of the diamond, they will in all probability be unable to provide any authentic information.
Observers are of the opinion that the Kimberley Process is misleading customers into thinking that their diamonds are from certified ethical sources. Rather, it is believed that there lurk countless human sufferings behind the many diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process. In the words of Martin Rapaport, an experienced person of the diamond industry, “Instead of eliminating blood diamonds, the Kimberley Process has become a process for the systematic legalization of blood diamonds.” In short, the failure of the Kimberley Process to impose strong controls over its acts has opened the doors to diamond smuggling in many areas.
Ian Smillie, one of the many founder members of the Kimberley Process resigned from his post due to the illicit working of the scheme. He stated, “The Kimberley Process is in danger of becoming irrelevant and its letting all manner of crooks off the hook”. This was followed by the resignation of Martin Rappaport, another leading member and founder. Due to the many unresolved issues, Global Witness, the official observer of the Kimberley Process resigned in 2011. They have produced numerous scathing reports, blaming the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme of failing to act against violations. All these criticism points to the fact that the Kimberley Process cannot help in cleaning up the diamond sector alone.