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Changing the Definition of Conflict Diamonds

The Kimberley Process opens discussions on broadening the scope of what “conflict diamonds” mean.

By Ricci Dipshan
RAPAPORT...


Gillian Milovanovic
Can say that it was a very positive meeting where a lot of work was accomplished,” said Gillian Milovanovic, who is representing the U.S. as the current chair of the Kimberley Process (KP). She was referring to the KP intercessional meeting held in Washington D.C. in early June. “The intercessional, as you know, is not a time for making decisions, for presenting proposals and having decisions made,” continued Milovanovic. “It is an opportunity for discussion, an opportunity for an exchange of ideas, as well as an opportunity to hear from outside organizations and for our members to see how to work with these organizations. Although the intercessional has concluded, the work isn’t over.”



While many issues, including artisanal mining and the KP’s enforcement and implementation strategies, were discussed, the most hotly debated item on the agenda was whether to expand the organization’s definition of “conflict diamonds” to include human rights abuses. Milovanovic indicated that the question, which has met with some resistance from Asian and African countries, was not based solely on a Western agenda, but was part of a broader review of the KP agreed to by its members in 2011.

“The Kimberley Process, itself, mandated the creation of a review committee and gave it a list of things to examine and to report on, and to advance; and listed among those are the core definitions of the Kimberley Process,” Milovanic explained. “The issue of examining the matter, debating the matter, exploring different avenues and possibilities — that is not subject to discussion as to whether it can happen, as the whole organization has already made that decision.’’

SYSTEMATIC VIOLENCE

Addressing the concerns of Asian and African countries, the chair advised that the new definition would focus solely on mining-related violence and would not seek to reprimand countries for violence that fell outside the scope of the diamond industry. “Essentially, we are talking about systematic things, not one-off situations or something that is unrelated to the diamond world,” Milovanovic said.



While nothing was finalized at the intercessional meeting, Milovanovic confirmed that the groundwork is now in place for future discussion by KP members on redefining conflict diamonds.

A statement by the U.S. State Department noted that “currently, the term ‘conflict’ that provides the foundation for the Kimberley Process mandate — namely, situations involving rebel movements seeking to overthrow legitimate governments — specifically reflects concerns in the years leading up to the KP founding in 2003. It must now be updated to reflect the challenges of today and tomorrow. To achieve this, we proposed that the definition of ‘conflict diamond’ used within the KP’s certification scheme should be modified to cover ‘rough diamonds used to finance, or otherwise directly related to, armed conflict or other situations of violence.’”

OPEN TIMETABLE

Coming off the heels of a contentious KP plenary meeting in November 2011, where Zimbabwe was given permission to sell rough diamonds from the Marange region, much to the chagrin of various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that had been monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe, many members attending this recent intercessional meeting commended Milovanovic for creating a welcoming and supportive environment.

While there was praise for the open and frank discussions held at the meeting, there was no movement to put a strict timetable on when the definition of “conflict diamonds” would be updated.

“Let us not overstep the mark and say that all gaps in the Kimberley Process have been bridged in one meeting. From experience we know that this is not the way things work in the KP,” advised Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council (WDC). “Change comes about gradually, and always as the result of an ongoing dialogue and a general desire to see outstanding issues resolved. That is the way things worked in the past, and it is the way that I expect things to develop in this specific instance.”

“I am reluctant to make predictions,” continued Izhakoff, “other than one that says, ‘Ultimately, we will resolve the issue.’ How long it takes, and whether it will be before the next plenary session in November, is not known at present.”


SALUTE TO BOTSWANA

More than 150 diamond and jewelry industry leaders, diplomats, government officials and delegates to the Kimberley Process (KP) attended the “Gala Salute to Botswana: Diamonds Empower Africa” on June 5 at the Embassy of Botswana, in Washington, D.C.  The lead sponsor for the event was Tiffany & Co.


Gaborone, Botswana
Phyllis Bergman, president of the Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF), a co-host of the event, said, “Our industry supports the empowerment of Africa. We are pleased to pay tribute and to salute the outstanding progress that Botswana continues to achieve, and that represents the good that diamonds do to improve the quality of life of people and communities in Africa.” DEF supports education initiatives in diamond-producing nations, including Botswana.

A student in an education program supported by Botswana and the DEP told the gathering that “You have given me the opportunity to change my life and to enhance the future of Botswana. I will not let you down.”

Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, Botswana ambassador to the U.S., said the evening was “Botswana’s time to shine as a model for what is possible when good governance is combined with good corporate social responsibility and best business practices from the private sector and government.”

The gala was held while KP members were in town for the organization’s intercessional meeting.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2012. To subscribe click here.

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