Kimberley Process chairperson Gillian Milovanovic has proposed a new definition of conflict diamonds to include acts of violence.
Speaking at the World Diamond Council (WDC) meeting in Vicenza, Italy, Milovanovic stressed the need for the Kimberley Process to modernize its function while maintaining focus on its mandate to monitor the rough distribution system. "We cannot be everything to everyone and our role is to cover the rough distribution process," she said. "The term conflict diamonds must accurately reflect today’s concerns as it did in 2002 when the Kimberley Process was being formed."
Milovanovic proposed that the conflict diamond definition should refer to rough diamonds used to finance armed conflict or other situations relating to violence affecting diamond mining areas.
While the definition excluded wording referring to human rights abuses, Milovanovic told Rapaport News that the definition implied human rights violations, which were a great concern to the process. The aim is to focus on human development and financial transparency that will allow the Kimberley Process to provide technical assistance to affected people in the trade such as alluvial miners, which would encompass ensuring their human rights, she added.
Her comments came ahead of the Kimberley Process intercessional meeting scheduled to take place in Washington on June 4. She stressed that the move to change the definition was still in the discussion phase and would be presented at the intersessional meeting. "No decision will be made at the intersessional but we hope to refine the discussion so that it will implemented in the near future," Milovanovic said.
WDC's president, Eli Izhakoff, stressed that the organization, which represents the diamond industry at the Kimberley Process, is committed to incorporating human rights language into the conflict diamond definition.
"This industry’s commitment was reflected in the agreement that the World Diamond Council has reached with the civil society coalition regarding the incorporation of a statement concerning compliance with international human rights law into the Kimberley Process’s administrative decision on internal controls," Izhakoff said.
However, Alan Martin, research director at Partnership Africa Canada, a member of the Kimberley Process's civil society coalition, criticized the WDC for the "ambiguity" in its position and urged the WDC to play a more proactive role in advocating human rights issues at the Kimberley Process.
"Despite the WDC's support for human rights language in the Kimberley Process, we are troubled by the WDC's opposition to efforts to redefine what constitutes a conflict diamond," he said. "As you all know, the Kimberley Process's current definition concerns itself only with abuses committed by rebel armies in diamond fields, and the subsequent use of rough diamonds to fuel conflict.
Martin did endorse Milovanovic’s proposed definition.
Izhakoff dismissed Martin's criticism and stressed that the WDC has not objected to any wording that would broaden the conflict diamonds definition.
The WDC subsequently passed a resolution stating that it expresses its support for discussions pertaining to widening the conflict diamonds definition in the core documents of the Kimberley Process on the following basis: "diamond related violence in rough diamond producing and trading areas." The WDC considers the proposal by the chair a good basis for moving the discussion forward, the resolution stated.
Martin praised the resolution saying that it offered a clearer message regarding the WDC's stance.
In addition to redefining the conflict diamond definition, Milovanovic noted that the U.S. would work to introduce a permanent administrative office at the Kimberley Process at the forthcoming interssessional meeting.
The WDC meeting on Monday begins a week of activity in Vicenza under the banner of the World Jewellery Forum, and will be followed by the UNITAR CSR and Sustainability Seminar on Tuesday, the CIBJO Congress and the meeting on and the Vicenzaoro Spring Fair.