Human rights group Global Witness announced this week that it is removing support for the Kimberley Process, the international scheme established a decade ago to stop the trade in ‘blood’ diamonds. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for Global Witness occurred last month when the Kimberley Process authorized two companies to operate in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean army seized control of the area in 2008, and killed around 200 miners. The deal to authorize exports from the Marange diamond fields occurred at an annual plenary meeting in early November in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The end of 2009 the Zimbabwean government agreed to do a series of reforms as a basis for the Kimberley Process’s authorization of exports, called a “Joint Work Plan.” Requirements for the Joint Work Plan included demilitarization, taking action against smuggling and legalizing small scale mining.
The deal, to authorize Maranage diamond exports, came “in spite of the Zimbabwean military remaining deeply involved in diamond mining in Marange, persistent and widespread smuggling and no progress in enabling small scale miners to work legally,” according to a press release by Global Witness last month.
“The fact is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, or whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes,” said Global Witness Founding Director Charmian Gooch in a statement.
The statement by Gooch cited the decision to endorse diamond exports from the two companies in the Marange region as the reason for Global Witness leaving the Kimberley Process. The decision to allow the exports from the Maranage region turned the Kimberley Process from an “international conflict prevention mechanism into a cynical corporate accreditation scheme,” Gooch said.
A Global Witness report outlined the human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields. The report stated that the Kimberley Process “appears to be legitimizing the situation in Marange.”
“The world has moved on but the Kimberley Process remains stuck in time. Ever more insular, the KP has spent the past few years lurching from one shoddy compromise to the next in a manner that strips away its integrity and undermines its earlier achievements,” Gooch said. “The KP has failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, breaches of the rules by Venezuela and diamonds fuelling corruption and state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe.”
Gooch told the BBC World Service’s World Business Report that the Kimberley Process failed three tests: “It failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast, 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.”
Gooch called for the diamond to sector to “start complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure.” She also called for government to show leadership “by putting these standards into law.”
Photo: Flickr user, Jurvetson