Interview With the New Chairwoman of the Kimberley Process

Gillian Milovanovic, the recently-appointed chairwoman of the Kimberley Process, kindly took some time to speak with me today about her expectations for America’s year as head as the certification scheme. Ambassador Milovanovic is the first female, as well as the first full-timer, to chair the Process. She is also a career diplomat, who, as you will see, chooses her words carefully: 

As a newcomer to the Process, what are your impressions?

Clearly the Process has achieved a great deal. It is definitely a process that needs to continue. Last November, the Process decided to mandate an ad hoc working group to review its procedures and definitions. We want to make sure that, within the KP’s existing mandate and objectives, everything is done in the best possible way. But we also want to make sure we ask how is today different from 10 years ago, when the Process was created?

What are your main goals for your chairmanship?

I want to stress the Process has gone through a difficult time in the last two years. I think our first priority is to try and restore a sense of collegiality and collaboration.

Aside from that, the priority that we have set for our chairmanship is the issues given to the ad hoc working group. One is the core definition of conflict diamonds. There are questions of human rights, revenue transparency, and development goals. The industry has indicated a desire and willingness to look at how its System of Warranties is working. The Kimberley Process should be a platform for exchanging best practices. There are more practical issues, like creating an administrative function.

I have seen a large degree of open-mindedness and looking to the future. And I find that encouraging.

Establishing a Secretariat has been a long sought after goal of KP reformers.  Do you see that happening? 

We clearly hope so. I am very mindful this is a process that operates by consensus. The chair was not created in order to tell people what to do. The chair was chosen to facilitate the dialogue. I think there is a real need for some kind of an administrative mechanism and I hope that is something that can be acheived by the end of this chairmanship.

What is your opinion on whether there should be any change to the decision making process, as opposed to the current “absolute consensus” model? 

Looking at the validity of the decision making process is again with the working group. We are not proposing any specific outcome. We are trying to foster a decision in conjunction with the working group. 

How about expanding the definition of conflict diamonds to include issues with human rights?

We do not have any specific terms or definitions we are proposing, or seeking to have adopted. We do have a sense that the Kimberley Process is doing extremely well with conflict diamonds, by their original definition. But just because we can say that situation is vastly improved, that doesn’t mean we should end the Process.

Regarding the question of looking at definitions of conflict, there are many conflict definitions that are out there. We don’t have to invent something. What we would hope is that we could look to other definitions—like, for example, the ones used by the Red Cross or the OECD.

If so-called “human rights language” does pass, what will the possible practical effect of that be? Will certain countries be looked at?

One of the lessons we have learned over the two years of finding a solution to Zimbabwe is that everyone needs to know what the rules are and that they are applied to everyone in the same manner. This is not viewed as something dealing with one particular country.  

Do you see the definition expanded in other ways, such as to include polished diamonds? 

From what I hear from the membership, I do not see the definition expanding to include polished diamonds.

NGOs have called the industry “System of Warranties” weak. Do you see the industry’s responsibilities being expanded?

The industry itself has indicated that it wants to make sure that its System of Warranties remains as strong as possible. That is something the industry itself hopes to do some work on, perhaps in the area of further educating all those in the supply chain. 

Are you focused at all on improving the image of the Kimberley Process?

Yes, that is a focus. We feel the best thing to provide is clarity. As you may know, the website has been in a woeful state for some time. So we are trying to put the website together in a much more professional manner. Some of the issues with the Kimberley Process stem from a lack of knowledge of what’s involved. If we have the opportunity to better explain what’s involved, we can let people make better judgments about it.

Do you see the Plenary meetings ever being open to the public or media? 

I have not heard any indication of that, but it is not something I’ve looked into.

What will you view as a successful stint as Chair?

I should point out that we are the Chair now, but South Africa is the Chair next year. We hope to work closely with South Africa. I personally view this as almost a two-year process. That is not to say we are not looking for achievements.

Speaking of South Africa, do you have an agreement that it will continue the reform agenda?

There was an agreement at the conclusion of the Kinshasa Plenary that we jointly issued saying that we will work together so the Process will move forward.

Does the State Dept. have a fallback plan in case you aren’t able to achieve your goals?

I don’t think it is a question of a fallback plan. There have obviously been discussions, and some speculation whether [the] Dodd-Frank [“conflict minerals” provision] could ever come to the diamond industry. That is not where we are at all. That is not to be said there aren’t a variety of concerns. What is really important is not to see this as an either/or. There needs to be an evolution in the Kimberley Process, and that evolution needs to start with this chairmanship. It is quite possible that some things that don’t quite fit with the Kimberley Process can be things that can be done in parallel or in conjunction with the Kimberley Process. So rather than saying, ‘The Kimberley Process has to do ‘x,’” other initiatives may emerge, whether from industry or civil society, that fit with the spirit of the KP but are apart from it. But again that has to be driven by the membership. 

When you told reporters that you were talking with Global Witness, some took that to mean the group could be coming back to the KP after leaving last year. Do you see that happening?

I am really not focused on it from that angle. The issue is rather this process started with three dimensions: civil society, the industry and government. Everyone I spoke to, even those who disagreed with Global Witness’ decision, said they wanted everyone to feel like part of this family. Eleven of the original 12 NGOs are still with the process. With regards to Global Witness, we want the lines of communication to remain open so they feel they are still part of this process.

Do you have a message for JCK’s readers in the industry? 

Obviously the industry has a significant role to play. I would just urge the industry to play that role to the fullest.

JCK News Director