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A New Kimberley Process Agreement on Zimbabwe! (Perhaps.) (Maybe.)

Here we go again .. in Dubai last week, the Kimberley
Process Working Group on Monitoring hammered out the framework for (yet
another) agreement with Zimbabwe. But of course, this isn’t really an agreement
– yet. 

Zimbabwe didn’t attend the negotiations, so it’s still not
certain that the government will accept the deal. As one attendee put it, everyone
was basically “negotiating with an empty chair.”  This may have worked in the country’s
favor—according to one source, everyone was so nervous about Zimbabwe accepting the deal, they made sure
it was one the country couldn’t refuse. But government officials there have
been so unpredictable they just might decline anyway.

The deal was described to me as “pretty close” to the one the KP chairman put forward in his ill-considered “administrative decision” (which KP participants have basically acted like didn’t exist.)  The controversial section 3B, the
American-authored provision that Zimbabwe thought was unfairly signaling it
out, is gone. There was language added about a new monitor and the local “focal
point”—and yet some of these provisions were in previous agreements; Zimbabwe
just never did them. And, sadly, under this new deal they may end up
being much harder to enforce.

The NGOs didn’t try to block the agreement, but they are not
happy with this deal, and will likely issue a statement denouncing it. Like
everyone else in the KP, they seem to have “Zimbabwe fatigue” and feel the
need to move to other things. (Canada, another Zim critic, also didn’t attend
the meeting, but it apparently won’t block the agreement, either.) For all the
success the NGOs have had framing the debate over the last years, they pretty
much failed this time around; to many of its neighbors, this became a struggle between
a poor African nation and “colonial” powers and NGOs unfairly pointing the
finger at it. One of the real dangers here was that African countries, angry
about Zimbabwe’s treatment, would withdraw from the KP out of protest, thereby
spelling its demise. That would have put NGOs in a knotty PR position; it’s one
thing to go against one African nation—but against just about every nation in
Africa? Not so easy.

That said, let’s not forget that there were very good
reasons for Zimbabwe to be in this position—including, first and foremost, the bloody crackdown that sparked this mess in the first place. Yes, there are
inconsistencies—there are other countries in the KP with diamond industries
just as chaotic as Zimbabwe’s. But, once it was under the microscope, Zimbabwe
pretty consistently failed to redeem itself. It often
did the minimum required for compliance, and sometimes, not even that.  The situation in Marange is much better than
it was: there are very few problems “in the fences,” where the diamonds are
produced. That is important, and gratifying. But “outside the fences,” who knows—there remain credible reports of nasty things still going on.

For what it’s worth, i do hope concerned retailers will be very careful
about buying Marange diamonds, for reasons I spell out here. If there was any bright spot to all this, I am told this was one of
the most harmonious WGM meetings ever. Everyone was courteous and respectful;
they came to get something done, and they did. The KP needs more of that spirit
if it is to survive and grow stronger in the years ahead.  

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