The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) Intersessional Meeting in Mumbai completed its half yearly meeting three weeks ago. It gave us some time to reflect on why the KPCS agenda is moving so slowly.
Undoubtedly, the KPCS is one of the great accomplishments of the worldwide diamond community of the last two decades. Since the WFDB-IDMA Congress in Antwerp in 2000, enormous steps have been made to create a safer, conflict-free diamond trade.
At the cradle of the success was an inspiring cooperation between NGOs, governments and, last but not least, the World Diamond Council, with a huge debt owed to the first WDC President, Eli Izhakoff. Without his wisdom and political skills, his warm personality and engagement to bring about the betterment of African lives, all this would not have been possible.
Today, diamonds are a very well-controlled commodity. More than 99.5% of the diamonds produced fall under a certification regime.
Yet, for many years, real progress on a few important issues seems to have been stalled. Is it because there is not enough debate? Are the matters at stake not clear enough? Or is there an elephant in the room nobody wants to acknowledge?
A lot of water has gone under the bridge discussing the definition of conflict diamonds. The WFDB wholeheartedly supports the decision of the WDC that the definition be expanded to include all forms of systemic violence.
But we also believe it is time to name the elephant in the room. Of course, consuming nations have the right to demand that the strongest possible control mechanisms to guarantee that the diamonds imported into their countries are not tainted by any form of abuse.
The same is also true for producing nations. They are entitled to protect the interests of their natural resources. So what should producers say - in the interest of their nation - when large retail companies make an announcement that certain countries’ production is not allowed to be sold through them.
Any decision taken at the KP or elsewhere affects the entire diamond industry, from mining to the manufacturers and dealers as well as to the smallest retail shop, which affects the lives of tens of millions of people.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone in Southern Africa that the enthusiasm to comply with what is perceived as a new form of economic colonialism is pretty limited. When countries are asked to make rules which could hurt them immediately once agreed upon it is difficult to find common ground.
The dilemma which they are facing is even stronger. Old Roman law was based on the principle of “Nulla poena sine lege” or “no penalty without a law”. In modern times, it is a basic requirement of the rule of law and described as one of the most widely held value-judgments in the entire history of human thought.
If KP Participants are faced with “prima facie” judgments by large corporations and feel the enormous commercial consequences in their supply chain – and this without any written rule or law – then one should not be surprised at their reluctance to have a rule adopted in a formal manner and included in the KP Core Document.
In our opinion, there should be a rule in the current definition of conflict diamonds that includes any systemic violence. At the same time, the objective analysis of facts should be the cornerstone of verification of allegations, and “trial by media” cannot be part of that solution.
This is the elephant that the Indian KP Chair has to ride. If he can do that successfully and neutralize what is perceived as a real threat of becoming excluded, he will have accomplished what many have failed to achieve in the past 10 years. From the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, we wish Shri Alok Vardan Chaturvedi lots of luck in this major task.
Ernie Blom is the President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses