October 26, 2004
Kimberley Controls Flawed in Many Countries
Diamond controls in many countries are seriously flawed and will probably never work unless changes are implemented, say reports released Oct. 25 by human rights organizations Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, both closely involved in the creation of the Kimberley Process diamond certification system. The reports were released just prior to a three-day meeting of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, beginning Oct. 27 in Ottawa, Canada.
Leaders of the world's diamond industry and representatives of more than 40 countries are gathering in Ottawa to discuss progress in implementing the worldwide diamond control scheme which aims to stop the phenomenon of conflict or "blood" diamonds. "The Key to Kimberley: Internal Diamond Controls" examines the implementation of new control systems in Belgium, Britain, the United States, Canada, Angola, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report recognizes the strengths of the Belgian system if implemented fully but is critical of U.S., British and Canadian regulations because of weak or nonexistent government audits of companies dealing with diamonds.
The report is much more critical of controls in the DRC and Angola. The report recommends tougher oversight if illicit diamonds are to be excluded from the legitimate diamond trade. "Governmental controls at the point of export in these countries are in place, but there are almost no controls one or two transactions back into the system," says Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness.
A second report, "Rich Man, Poor Man Development Diamonds and Poverty Diamonds" details months of research in the diamond fields of Sierra Leone, Angola and DRC. There, alluvial diamonds represent the primary source of income for more than 1 million freelance diggers and their families. On average, however, they earn only a dollar a day. Working conditions are unhealthy and dangerous; cheating, theft and smuggling are rampant. "Until Africa's diamond diggers earn a fair wage, diamonds will always be a destabilizing factor in these countries," says Ian Smillie from Partnership Africa Canada.
The report says that controls alone are not enough and calls on the diamond industry and the worldıs development organizations, including the World Bank and the United Nations, to find ways to generate better prices for a commodity which represents one of the most concentrated forms of wealth on the earth.
On Oct. 21, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada issued a statement saying progress on conflict diamonds is also compromised by a lack of statistics from Russia, which is in noncompliance with the Kimberley agreement. Russia has provided no diamond statistics at all to the Kimberley scheme. Legislation to declassify diamond data (once a state secret), was passed months ago, but has still not been signed into law by Russian President Putin. Russia, one of the worldıs largest diamond producers, is slated to take the chair of the Kimberley Process in January 2005. "Russia's noncompliance for almost two years on this key issue brings its proposed chairmanship of the Kimberley Process in 2005 into serious doubt," says Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness.
There are still problems with internal controls on the Kimberley Process in some countries, say the human rights groups, and these will be discussed at the Ottawa meeting. There are also major problems with the scheme's statistical data base, they say. A number of countries still submit statistical data with significant delays and use different methodologies for providing the data. While some countries use the information provided on the Kimberley Process Certificates, others rely on trade information from customs. Use of different methodologies creates comparative statistical inaccuracy.
Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness call on all governments participating in the KPCS to provide regular and timely trade and production data, based on the information that is used on Kimberley Process certificates. Without a resolution of this issue at the forthcoming meeting, the groups say KPCS cannot provide assurance that diamonds entering the world's jewelry stores are conflict-free.
To see a the reports and for more information, go to globalwitness.org and partnershipafricacanada.org.
by Peggy Jo Donahue