Inspection debate threatens Kimberley Process

Sharp differences among diamond producing and trading countries emerged on Wednesday, shattering hopes of an agreement that would reinforce the credibility of the Kimberley Process, the UN-backed initiative to curb the trade in “conflict diamonds,” the Financial Times reports.

Representatives from the 55 participating countries, the diamond industry and non-governmental organizations, such as Global Witness and Action Aid, met in South Africa on Wednesday to discuss a proposal for a regular monitoring mechanism to ensure each country effectively complies with the Kimberley Process rules.

The proposal was put forward by South Africa (which chairs the Process), the European Union, U.S., Canada, Israel, and the World Diamond Council. It suggested regular review missions should be sent to all countries every three years to monitor compliance.

The Kimberley Process, which started in 2000 as concerns rose over the role diamonds were playing in financing and prolonging wars in some African countries, has been very successful in bringing parties with different views and agendas to agree on some crucial principles and practices, the London-based business publication reports.

The certification scheme compels every diamond producing or trading country to pass legislation and designate an authority to issue a certificate of origin for every diamond guaranteeing it not from a conflict zone.

However, the lack of independent monitoring to assess how each country’s laws and regulations are working in practice and whether they are actually curbing the trade in conflict diamonds has threatened the scheme’s integrity, the publication reports.

During the initial talks on Wednesday some countries – notably India, China, Australia, and Japan – balked at the idea of regular independent review missions to measure compliance.

“We strongly support the industry and the governments that are pushing for regular monitoring,” Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness told the Financial Times. “It is inconceivable that some governments would continue to oppose it.”

In the hope of reaching a compromise, the Kimberley Process plenary session will on Thursday discuss a revised proposal, which would make the monitoring process voluntary, the publication reports.

Instead of regular review missions to each country, only countries that volunteer will be reviewed.

NGOs expressed disappointment at a compromise that they fear will make the Process toothless, the publication reports. The NGOs’ hope now is that countries, which do not volunteer for review missions, will be suspected of hiding something, and that peer pressure will force them to change course.