Was the Kimberley Process Always Doomed?

Most of the usual Kimberley Process crowd is meeting in Brussels this week to resolve the current impasse over Zimbabwe. But there are ominous signs for the system’s future, including stories like this one.

All this brings me back to an article that appeared in the Financial Times in June, “Multiple Stakeholder Coalitions in Crisis.”   

The piece notes there are problems not just with the Kimberley Process, but with similar schemes like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

The author writes that, at first, these initiatives generate a “flush of enthusiasm that government, business and civil society leaders [can] really grab the ball and run with it.” But at some point, “the interests of individual members gain the upper hand and undermine the consensus approach.”

We are seeing this with the Kimberley Process. For one moment in time, the different groups were united in their desire to stop conflict diamonds. But then the interests of the different stakeholders took over.

There was the Blood Diamond movie, which the NGOs wanted to promote and the industry wanted to counter. There has been disagreement over whether to include “human rights language,” which the NGOs and the industry agree on (to some extent), but may be blocked by governments. And regarding Zimbabwe, there are arguments not just amongst the stakeholders but within them.

It is all a huge mess, but I remain convinced that, in the end, a strong Kimberley Process is in everyone’s interest, if only to stop future conflict diamond outbreaks from occurring.  

The tone in KP meetings and amongst some participants has become nasty and confrontational—even though participants basically agree on the broad outlines of a Zimbabwe agreement.

At its best, the Kimberley Process showed what sustained dialogue and cooperation between interested parties can achieve. We aren’t seeing a lot of cooperation now (or dialogue—in Jerusalem, it was striking how much the parties kept to themselves). We need the calmer, saner heads, on all sides, to work together to save the KP from oblivion.  

JCK News Director