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Does "KP Plus" Add Up?

By Rob Bates, Senior Editor

Posted on October 15, 2010

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There has been a lot of talk about the prospect of “Kimberley Process-Plus” (which Idex pronounced dead yesterday). Basically, the idea, as I understand it, is that certain countries would come together to form a kind of “extra” KP, comprised only of nations that meet certain criteria.

The “KP Plus,” as envisioned, would encompass an NGO “wish list” of proposals, such as human rights language, independent third party monitoring (possibly involving an auditing firm, similar to what the RJC has, as opposed to the current “peer review” process), and policies requiring strict internal controls.

While the United States hasn’t officially claimed authorship of this proposal, the State Dept. is widely assumed to be behind it, and members would include allies like Canada and Australia.  

There apparently is a document circulating (which I haven’t seen) describing the plan, though no one I spoke to has precise ideas as to how it will work. Would non-“KP Plus” rough be prohibited from legally entering the U.S., as non-KP rough is now? And since the U.S. isn’t a big market for rough, would the prohibition have to be eventually extended to polished? Both would require major changes in policy and legislation. There were also reports that participation would be "voluntary," but that companies who don't participate might be "named" (and shamed.) And some say that simply having an "upper tier" would make countries want to up their standards.

One understands why countries would be a little put off by some of these ideas, but when I talk to people who support this proposal, they say that opponents are panicking too fast based on sketchy details, and that all these questions can be addressed through negotiations with the parties involved. Yet until the basic structure of this is known, it’s hard to take this plan seriously.

But I also don’t think this concept should be completely dismissed.

I am certainly on record as a supporter of the Kimberley Process. For all the good it’s done, it has its limitations.  It is a consensus process, and consensus involves compromise. And with every compromise the KP has had to forge between its three constituencies -- NGOs, the industry and over 70 governments – some have grown more and more disenchanted. Trying to get everyone on the same page has brought it to the brink of disintegration several times.

Remember, the KP was designed as a method of preventing conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream of commerce. It does not guarantee every diamond it certifies is 100% ethical.  The question is: Where do consumers, or companies, who want that guarantee go?

At some point, the KP will have bumped up against its limitations—if it hasn’t already. Any time you try to get 70 countries to sign off on something, you will only be able to do a certain amount. The KP is an incredible achievement, but there are very real problems in the supply chain that it doesn’t address. Whether or not “KP Plus” is the solution, these conversations will pop up more and more in the future. 

Now, as reflected in the Idex memo, industry representatives and most of the participating countries have all but rejected the “KP Plus” idea, and it likely isn’t going anywhere (and if it does, it won’t include the name “KP.”) It is so radioactive right now it may not even be brought up at the upcoming Plenary in Jerusalem. Certainly the way it was injected into the conversation—via a press leak—didn’t help.

As far as the specific proposals (such as they are), the talk of “licensing” companies struck many as unworkable, and something that could exclude alluvial diggers. (Though the standards being generated by the Diamond Development Initiative might apply here.)  "KP Plus" might require the building of a whole new infrastructure, on top of the one that already exists now. And some think it is just a way for the United States to expand its influence in Africa.

But the biggest fear: It will create two separate “classes” of diamonds. Which it will.  Yet that is kind of the point.

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