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Trade Seeks to Broaden Kimberley Process Agenda

Jun 24, 2021 4:39 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... The Kimberley Process (KP) intersessional meeting is taking place this week amid repeated calls to expand the definition of conflict diamonds and concerns that the scheme is not keeping up with sustainability and digital trends.

“The prevailing subjects that are today on the agenda of the international community, as well as that of the diamond industry, are human rights, environmental protection and social justice,” Edward Asscher, president of the World Diamond Council (WDC), the industry’s representative at the KP, said in his address at the opening session on Monday. “They are certainly being discussed and advanced outside of the KP. And we must not be left behind.”

A proposal by Russia — which currently chairs the KP — and vice chair Botswana calls for participants to endorse the principles of responsible diamond sourcing, noted Alexey Moiseev, Russia’s deputy finance minister, who is serving as the KP chairman.

Such endorsement would highlight the KP’s support for the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, the efforts of the WDC to implement its system of warranties, and other relevant industry standards, Moiseev explained in his opening address. The system of warranties, which the WDC recently revised, obligates diamond suppliers and jewelry manufacturers to provide a statement of conflict-free status each time stones change hands.

Digital agenda

The Russian delegation is also hoping to advance its initiative to digitize KP certificates. It is planning to launch a pilot program with key partners to exchange information contained on the KP certificates, Moiseev said. Russia intends to use its online customs platform as a tool for the digital exchange of information in the program.

The biggest challenge to the initiative is overcoming the various national legislations that require different security protocols and technologies that might be used in the project, he noted.

Also on the agenda at the meeting, which is taking place in a virtual format for the first time, are initiatives to formalize the role and location of a permanent KP secretariat, and to revise the definition of conflict diamonds.

“It would be inappropriate to let go of the progress made before the pandemic,” Moiseev stressed.

The WDC previously led the charge to expand the definition — which is centered on rough diamonds used by rebel movements — to include human-rights abuses, labor rights and all forms of systemic violence. However, the changes have not been passed, as various countries disputed the proposals. The KP requires a 100% consensus among its 56 member states to pass any resolution.

Human rights focus

Human rights issues came under the spotlight again following a recent surge in violence in the in the Central African Republic (CAR), where the KP has implemented an operational framework to allow diamond exports from certain “green zones.”

Both Asscher (pictured) and Moiseev stressed that the CAR government needed to strengthen its controls within those regions.

“The current situation in CAR is deeply concerning from a humanitarian perspective and has the potential to undermine the operational framework,” Asscher said. “The CAR government needs to take strong and concrete steps to help verify diamonds from the green zones to address our concerns.

“If the situation does not improve, we will no longer be able to accept the new operational framework, which would be a devastating setback for both the CAR government and those working in the diamond industry in these zones,” he added.

Not left behind

Failure to address the array of issues and meet consumer expectations would compromise the integrity of the pipeline and pose a real risk for the industry and the countries that rely on diamonds for their well-being and stability, the WDC warned.

“If the KP is left behind, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant, and so may the category of diamonds,” Asscher cautioned. He urged the KP to leverage its “unique position” to maintain the integrity of diamonds and support human rights.

The intersessional meeting runs from June 21 to 25. Last year, the annual June gathering and November plenary were canceled due to the pandemic.

Image: Edward Asscher, president of the World Diamond Council. (WDC)
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Tags: Conflict Diamonds, diamonds, Fair Trade, human rights, Jewelry, Kimberley Process, Rapaport News, sustainability, World Diamond Council
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