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Editorial

Jun 17, 2010 1:12 PM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... Much of what transpires at next week’s Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) intercessional meeting in Tel Aviv hinges on the actions of civil society - the human rights groups that account for one of the scheme’s three branches.

Both Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) and Global Witness, the two backbone organizations of the KP’s civil society coalition, published special in-depth reports on Zimbabwe in the run-up to the meeting. Therein, they outlined their mandate for the intercessional, which is expected to focus on the Zimbabwe issue.

Amongst other points, the respective reports call on the KP to:

1. Suspend Zimbabwe until “there is legitimate and competent governance of the country’s diamond resources”;

2. Redefine “conflict diamonds” to encompass consumer concerns about rape, murder and mutilation;

3. Include cut and polished stones in the KPCS ;

4. Adopt language that clarifies the KP’s attitude toward human rights in the diamond sector; and

5. Introduce reforms to improve the scheme’s decision-making process, increase transparency and enhance monitoring.

The final two points are perhaps the most important as they are the loopholes through which the Zimbabwe government has been able to manipulate the scheme to adhere to its principles, rather than the other way round.

The KP’s weakness lies primarily in its consensual nature in that one member can block any decision from passing. As a result, the KP’s attitude about certain issues, such as human rights, becomes a gray area. While some members may hold a particular view on a military takeover of a mine that resulted in hundreds being killed, another member may differ, or have its diplomatic ties with that country to consider. In a consensus vote on the issue, for which the majority is unable to rule, the minority ultimately will.

The Zimbabwean government essentially knew this and recognized that it would not be suspended back at the Swakopsmund Plenary in November 2009, even after members of a KP review mission to Zimbabwe issued a scathing report outlining the gross human rights violations carried out by state agencies at the Marange mine.

The key to understanding the KP is recognizing that it is built around a set of minimum standards required of its members, which were purposefully formulated to be all-inclusive. It therefore was always going to develop into a system of ticks and crosses for countries trading in rough diamonds to adhere to.

Therefore, it should not take anyone by surprise that Abbey Chikane, the KP monitor for the Marange mine in Zimbabwe, has recommended that the stones produced at the mine since November 2009 should be cleared for export. In that case, miners Mbada Diamonds, Canadile Resources and the government would only have to adhere to that framework of minimum requirements, but they would not have to address the human rights issues and neither, according to the joint work plan adopted at Swakopsmund, did Chikane.

The KP, which was created to stem the trade of diamonds that fuel war, is not an organization that is equipped to deal with human rights violations, even if it should be.

The civil society block at the KP therefore finds themselves at more of a crossroads than the other two branches in the scheme, government and industry. They alone are left to take action when human rights violations are evident, such as in Zimbabwe. The government branch can easily choose to ignore these violations, as each participating country has their respective conflicting political, diplomatic and ideological principles to adhere to, making compromise inevitable. Industry also has its own agenda, which makes the human rights fight secondary.

However, for civil society, addressing this issue is their job.

Absent from the PAC and Global Witness reports were the actions that they might consider if their proposals to the KP are not accepted. Will they pull out of the KP if Marange diamonds are allowed to be traded with KP certificates? Or will they continue to work within the system to ensure that the human rights and KP reform discussions take place?

Many fear they may choose the former and that this may spell the end of the KP, which may well be the consequence of their departure. However, they might also consider the impact of again endorsing the system they did by compromising last November.

In the conclusion of its report, Global Witness stated, “By turning a blind eye to the appalling human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields, KP-participant governments have betrayed the principles at the heart of the certification scheme. Their repeated failure to act has encouraged those responsible to continue their abuses and to tighten their grip on Magabe’s diamond wealth.

“By basing its response on a weak compromise deal that links demilitarization of the diamond fields to the introduction of private investors, the KP is tacitly supporting legally dubious joint ventures and practices that facilitate corruption and state looting… Diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process could soon be bankrolling renewed political violence in Zimbabwe.”

The question for civil society now is: As part of the KP, how will they prevent these consequences?

Note: This article is an excerpt from a market report that is sent to RapNet members on a weekly basis. To subscribe, go to www.rapnet.com or contact your local Rapaport office. The writer can be contacted at avi@diamonds.net.

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Tags: Avi Krawitz, Abbey Chikane, Avi Krawitz, Conflict Diamonds, Global Witness, Government, Kimberley Process, Marange Fields, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), Zimbabwe
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