Global Witness has announced that it is leaving the Kimberley Process because of issues with the certification scheme’s handling of the situations in Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and the Ivory Coast.
Global Witness senior campaigner Annie Dunnebacke tells JCK the decision to leave is “permanent” and “we won’t coming back.”
“We feel we have reached the point of diminishing returns,” she says. “We have had a lot of invested in this process and given this very careful consideration over a long period of time.”
“This is not an attempt to tear down the KP overnight and present some kind of alternative,” she continues. “This is an attempt to re-focus the debate and draw attention to [supply chain] standards that have been developed that would be very much applicable to the diamond industry.”
She adds the decision to allow exports from Zimbabwe spurred the group’s decision to leave, but wasn’t its only objection.
“We have felt for a long time the Kimberley Process isn’t doing what it [advertised],” she says.
Alan Martin, research director for Partnership Africa Canada, the other NGO involved in the certification scheme’s founding, tells JCK his group plans to stay involved.
“We understand Global Witness’ frustration,” he says. “Every reason they gave for leaving we agree with.”
He warns that a lot depends on what happens this year, when the U.S. becomes chairman.
“Our patience with the KP is not unlimited,” he says. “One of the mistakes that we’ve made is to view the Kimberley Process as the sole adjudicator of these issues. Yes, the KP is a necessary thing, and we are taking next year to push harder on reforms. If at the end of the year, we see the KP not taking some of these issues seriously and continuing to drag its feet, we will see other human rights groups having the same discussion Global Witness is.”
Diamond industry groups expressed disappointment over Global Witness’ decision, with the World Diamond Council asking the group to “reconsider.”
“The system is not perfect, and is in need of constant review,” said Eli Izhakoff, WDC president, in a statement. “However, you cannot contribute to the process if you are no longer engaged.”
The organization added: “While the rate of progress is sometimes slower than desired, the Kimberley Process has proven over the years that it is effective and does have teeth. Legal exports from the Marange region of Zimbabwe were effectively held up for two years, before it was decided that the situation at certain mines has improved to the point that monitored exports could proceed.”
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre also said it regretted the group’s decision.
“The Kimberley Process has always been characterized as an inclusive process in which KP participating countries, together with the diamond industry and the NGO coalition, fight conflict diamonds,” said CEO Ari Epstein in a statement. “In this regard, AWDC calls upon the current KP chair, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and upon the incoming chair, the United States, to reengage with Global Witness.”
Another Kimberley founding father, Ian Smillie, formerly of PAC, decided he would no longer participate in the scheme in 2009.