Can Kimberley Process improve the conflict tainted global diamond industry?

Conflict diamonds
[Image courtesy - Time]

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established in 2002 with an aim to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the rough diamond market by United Nations. However, in the past KP has failed to completely banish the trade of conflict diamonds from the supply chain. It has a very narrow definition of conflict diamonds, as it only includes rough diamonds and ignores its effect on human rights violations, social and environmental abuses.

Various requests and suggestions have been made to the European Union (EU) who is chairing the KP this year, along with India as the Vice-chair. EU will be taking decisions on the proposed reforms at the on-going KP intercessional in Antwerp, Belgium.


Suspend Israel and ban Israeli diamonds from KP

In 2014, Israel was the biggest net beneficiary of the global diamond trade worth USD 11 billion accounting for 30% of manufacturing exports. It has been alleged that the revenue thus earned from the diamond industry apparently fund the Israeli government and the violent settler-colonial project in Palestine.

Human Rights Watch spreads light on the recent Israeli massacre in Gaza. It says that it may result into war crimes and called on the international community to “impose real cost of such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives” so that revenue generated from the diamonds funding the Israeli military should be banned.

Irrespective of the USD 1 billion generated every year to fund Israeli occupation forces, jewelers claim diamonds processed in Israel are conflict-free. These occupational forces are accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, increase in the number of unregulated nuclear weapons and enforcement of a system of discrimination of race.

On the basis of definition provided by KP for conflict diamonds, jewelry industry refuses to ban all blood diamonds and limits it to just the rough diamonds.

To put a stop to the unethical funding of revenue generated from diamond trade to Israeli government, Human Rights Watch has urged EU to suspend Israel and ban Israeli diamonds from KP.


Broader definition for conflict diamonds, due diligence for responsible sourcing, suggest US

KP’s definition of conflict diamond is extremely narrow and defines them as ‘rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments’. It ignores the effects on violations caused on humans and its ill-effects on environment and society.

US as the member state of KP, is focusing on encouraging KP to expand the definition of conflict diamond. Pamela Fierst-Walsh, Senior Adviser for Conflict Minerals and KP, US believes that modern consumers are starting to realize the narrow definition.

She adds, “Many consumers will start turning to other goods that do not associate with conflict and violence, including synthetic or laboratory-grown diamonds. The KP can prevent this shift, if it is willing to support industry and diamond miners at least by expanding and strengthening the definition to meet consumer expectations.”

This will ensure that violence and conflict are out of the supply chain, ensuring better protection. Apart from the definition, KP should send out a strong message that broader principles and due diligence are implemented for responsible sourcing in the rough diamond supply chain.


Protect rights in diamond trade

Human rights abuses go long back in history of Zimbabwe’s diamond mine companies. Armed forces have kidnapped children and adults and put them into forced labour camps when they took control of the mines in 2008. In the process they killed nearly 200 people. In April, some organisations even reported that security guards had handcuffed local miners and unleashed attack dogs on them.

Recently, villagers in Marange protested against the state-run companies accusing them to have stolen millions of euros in revenue from local miners. The security force personnel attacked women with batons, fired live ammunition in air and fired tear gas canisters, sending three children to hospital.

However, diamonds with a background of forced labour and abuse still reach the global diamond market easily, under the KP scheme. Though KP narrowly focuses on the abuses by armed forces, it ignores human rights violations by state sectors. It focuses on only rough diamonds, ignoring the semi-cut, cut and polished diamonds.

Recently, Human Rights Watch studied diamond sourcing practices of 13 leading jewelry and watch brands. It was found that most of the companies term their tie-up with KP as the evidence that their diamonds are ‘responsibly sourced’, while hardly putting any efforts in identifying forced labour or other human rights risks in their diamond supply chain.

To curb this issue an independent monitoring system needs to be in place to check if the necessary customs are being followed.

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