JCK Las Vegas: Kimberley Process Panel Debates System’s Future

There is currently unease about the Kimberley Process, Diamond Development Initiative executive director Dorothee Gizenga said during a panel discussion titled The Kimberley Process and Consumer Confidence.

“We have heard in the media about the Kimberley Process’s inability to deal with human rights,” said Gizenga, the panel’s moderator. “Conflict diamonds are defined as diamonds that are mined by rebel armies. But does the narrow definition of conflict diamonds serve the industry today?”

World Diamond Council general counsel and Jewelers Vigilance Committee president and CEO Cecilia Gardner argued that a government, like Zimbabwe’s, that “perpetrates human rights abuses against its diamond producing population … fails to meet Kimberley standards.”

She added, “We have worked closely with the NGOs to integrate human rights goals into the Kimberley agenda, and we will continue this process.”

Brad Brooks-Rubin, special advisor on conflict diamonds for the State Department, said, “Too much of what’s good in the Kimberley Process just stays in the Kimberley Process.” He noted that many former “problem countries” have now become integrated into the KP.

Still, he agreed that the questions of human rights abuses need to be addressed. “There are currently proposals on the table to address the transparency issues and the human rights language,” he said. “These issues are difficult but important, and we can’t just hope they will resolve themselves.”

John Hall, director of external affairs for Rio Tinto, which has a mine in Zimbabwe, said that while the country has many issues, for the most part it was “business as usual.”

World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff noted that while, for the most part, the Kimberley Process has “worked beautifully” since its establishment in 2003, his group has been calling for reforms. “When we called it a process, we meant it for it to be a process,” he said. “We have called for greater transparency. We would like the KP to have a professional team running it.”

He noted that these issues will surface at an upcoming Kimberley Process meeting in Israel. “We have to work within the system,” he said. “Today, people are ready to make the right decisions. We will get there, but it will take time.”

Jewelers of America CEO Matt Runci said, “The Kimberley Process was and remains essential to establishing consumer confidence in diamonds.”

He added, “It now needs to address current and future situations where diamonds, as an accessible form of wealth, can still be used to terrorize people. We all know the Kimberley Process has flaws, but that doesn’t mean that it is not essential.”

Runci also called for a better decision-making process, increased peer review, more transparency, and more continuity among its leadership. But he warned against “loading it with expectations,” which he said would doom it to failure.

“The Kimberley Process is not, and will never be, a panacea for all the situations in the diamond supply chain that pose some degree of risk for continued consumer confidence,” he said.

He added that people in the industry needed to take a greater role in ensuring the success of systems like the KP. “Whatever your role in the industry, you have control of your own fate,” he said. “It is very easy to understand how people can become complacent. At the end of the day, you all have accountability for your own business. Exercise it wisely.”

Noora Jamsheer, a member of the U.N. panel of experts on Cote d’Ivoire, which remains under U.N. sanctions, said the government still has no control of the country’s diamond mining areas.