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
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.