State Department Meeting on the KP and Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe/Kimberley Process issue is still a significant concern, with a major meeting taking place Thursday with some key officials at the State Department, NGOs and industry groups. Attendees discussed the need to prevent smuggled stones from Marange (officially banned right now, pending the appointment of a monitor) from entering the legitimate industry.  All agreed there needs to be a way to identify “bad actors” who buy smuggled goods.

In related news, Human Rights Watch has been giving speeches on the issue. Here is what one group representative advised people to do recently:

– Write to your Senator or Representative to urge them to “remedy the Kimberley Process’s failings and expose the actions of Mugabe’s allies. At the same time, urge a swift review of, and amendment to, the Clean Diamond Trade Act.” …

– Write to other Kimberley Process “states,” including China, Russia and Switzerland, and tell them that “they need to act to end the smuggling of blood diamonds and stop the human rights abuses at the Marange diamond fields.” See a sample letter here.

– Finally, if you are considering purchasing a diamond, ask the retailer about the source of the diamond and request that the seller show proof that the diamond is not from Zimbabwe. If no proof is offered, do not purchase the diamond.

I have no problem with recommendations one and two – in fact, I would encourage people to do them – but the third one is silly, and I have to believe the people at Human Rights Watch know that. Having people insist their diamonds aren’t from Zimbabwe targets jewelers who are doing the right thing, which is following the KP System of Warranties (remember, not all jewelers follow it, even today).

In addition, since most diamonds are not origin-identified, the only way a jeweler can insure their diamonds are not from Zimbabwe is to sell stones specifically branded as from Canada, Botswana or Namibia. Since there aren’t many Namibia- and Botswana-branded stones out there, most people are going to go for Canadian diamonds. Not a big boon to Africa.

For years, I have had NGOs tell me how wrong it is that some jewelers don’t follow the KP and just sell Canadian stones to deal with customer concerns. And now Human Rights Watch is basically encouraging them to do that.

Here is a better plan: Consumers should be encouraged to make their feelings about the Zimbabwe issue known to their jewelers. Perhaps customers can  even give their jewelers letters, written by Human Rights Watch if need be, to send to their suppliers and the major associations, urging them not to buy diamonds from Marange and to have Zimbabwe suspended from the KP. Most jewelers would be happy to send them.

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JCK News Director