May 1, 2001
Human Rights Groups Criticize Kimberley Process
"We are profoundly disappointed and deeply concerned with the lack of progress in efforts to end the trade in conflict diamonds," reads a statement released by 70 non-governmental human rights organizations. The statement responds to an April 25-27 Kimberley Process meeting held in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss progress on its international rough diamond certification program.
Government representatives from 38 countries attended the Kimberley meeting along with human rights organizations, the World Diamond Council, the European Commission, World Customs Organizations and representatives of the United Nations.
The thumbs-down analysis of the meeting by the human rights groups contrasted sharply with a statement released by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, which stated: "The group is on track for formal adoption of minimal acceptable standards for certification to stop illegal trafficking in conflict diamonds."
Industry experts disagreed with human rights groups as well. "I'm very optimistic with the way the meetings in Brussels went," says World Diamond Council Chairman Eli Izhakoff. "There is an end in sight now; it is just down to fine tuning the wording of the agreements which delegates from so many countries must agree on."
The human rights groups' criticism arose from the drafting of language for a concluding statement at the Brussels meeting. Delegates felt they could say they were on a path of "emerging consensus," as opposed to a more unanimous "broad consensus" regarding the international diamond certification scheme. "Some delegates felt they needed to return to their countries to check on details regarding the certificates of origin before the agreement could be described as a broad consensus," explained Izhakoff. But the human rights groups saw their actions as an ominous sign. "That is an indication the process is in grave danger of being stalled," its statement argued. "The whole process is in danger of unraveling."
Izhakoff said that the only thing that unraveled was a perception by human rights groups that nothing was happening. "In reality it really was a very minor argument. I think they are instead giving us a message that we'd better have our agreements ready by the time we meet again in Moscow," he said. "I feel there is light at the end of the tunnel because these meetings [in Brussels] were very positive. That, combined with the introduction of the conflict diamond bill by U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) last week definitely shows the industry is doing its best to tackle the conflict diamonds issue." Izhakoff said.
The Kimberley Process, as the meetings to craft the international certification scheme have been dubbed, meets again in Moscow in early summer, 2001.
- by Robert Weldon, G,G.