Professional Jeweler Archive: Kimberley Nations Meet

July 2003

Diamonds/News


Kimberley Nations Meet

Members make progress on improving the certification system


Participants in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which vets rough diamonds and ensures they’re traded in a closed system barring illegal goods, met to discuss their progress April 28-30 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Along with government officials, attendees included members of the World Diamond Council and human rights groups.

The officials had many implementation issues to tackle, says attendee Matthew Runci, executive director of WDC and president and CEO of Jewelers of America. Meanwhile, some issues that weren’t raised are needed to make Kimberley more airtight and effective, say some observers. Among the most significant items:

Statistics. Real progress was made on this front, says Runci. A working group chaired by Mark Van Bockstael, director of international affairs for the Antwerp Diamond High Council, created a document that will allow all countries that report diamond statistics to do so consistently, says Runci. This has been a profound problem in tracking the international rough diamond trade because various countries record diamond imports and exports differently, preventing an oversight body such as Kimberley from preparing meaningful data. A final communique issued at the end of the meeting says collection of statistics can begin immediately. The working group plans to continue to oversee monitoring the trade.

Import/Export Conformity. Problems have arisen with various countries’ diamond import/export and customs officials, who were packaging diamonds and processing paperwork in various ways instead of using one consistent method. For example, customs officials needed official guidelines to allow them to unseal and reseal containers of diamonds. Because some countries were sealing paperwork inside diamond containers, customs officials were unsure how to deal with unsealed diamonds that were simply transiting through one country to reach another, says Runci.

Membership Criteria. Initially, the creators of the Kimberley system welcomed any country that wanted to participate in the certification program. But now the group is working on criteria to prevent countries that cannot control their diamond supplies from becoming members. Kimberley participants also decided to send the group’s first review mission to the Central African Republic, which is suffering from political turmoil and lawlessness after a rebel takeover in March. The World Diamond Council requested the review in a letter to Abbe Chikane, chairman of the Kimberley Process, before the April meeting. Kimberley members also decided they could not consider Liberia for membership until the United Nations lifts a trade embargo on its diamonds. Liberia is implicated in the conflict diamond trade.

Charter Membership Deadline. Though 70 countries have applied to become members of the Kimberley system, only about 25 had submitted their sample Kimberley certificates or passed national laws/ regulations to control the diamond trade as of the April meeting. The Kimberley participants agreed the other 45 countries applying for membership had to have their documentation submitted by May 31. A participation committee will decide by July 31 which nations will be admitted. After that, non-admitted countries lose the right to trade with Kimberley participants. “The most effective sanction [for nations without diamond controls] is total isolation from the diamond industry,” says Chikane. After the initial Kimberley group is formed, other countries can still apply for membership, but they’ll have to apply and then wait for approval.

Peer Review System. Representatives were unable to finalize a group-wide peer review system that human rights groups hope will regularly monitor all participating Kimberley countries on a random and ongoing basis. This monitoring is seen as key because it would uncover any abuses or corruption that might allow rogue diamonds to enter the legitimate diamond supply. Runci says participants weren’t overly concerned because the peer review system is a long-term strategy and the April meeting was intended as an initial implementation meeting. He says ongoing peer review is also controversial in some quarters because it would involve the peer reviewers gaining access to records of government and individual companies. This raises privacy issues that will be difficult to resolve, he says.

Support for Weak Governments. Because some countries are afflicted by weak or poor governments that don’t have the resources for diamond controls, various participants and observers have recommended the Kimberley group offer assistance. This issue was not addressed at the meeting. An example of such a government is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which continues to be plagued by violence and lawlessness. A U.N. report last year documented the illegal activities of the diamond trade there and the criminal plundering of the country’s natural resources, including diamonds.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

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