The Kimberley Process and Zimbabwe, Once Again …. (Updated)

Some notes on the latest KP plenary, which ended with the decision not to suspend  Zimbabwe  …

– First, it’s important to note that, despite all the NGO statements and consumer petitions, the most likely outcome always was that Zimbabwe would not be suspended, especially once the issue became politicized and high-profile. (Partial suspension for the Marange region was also considered; that didn’t happen either.) There simply doesn’t seem to be the political will among certain influential KP governments, for various political reasons, to discipline Zimbabwe, at least for now.

– The decision not to suspend Zimbabwe has disappointed NGOs and other observers. The Plenary did, however, adopt a compromise “work plan,” which participants note was hammered out after some pretty tough negotiations with the Zimbabwe KP team, including one marathon seven hour session. “I don’t think they are giving the [Zimbabwe representatives] a hero’s welcome back home,” one participant said. “They gave in on a lot of things.”

The World’s Diamond Council’s Cecilia Gardner, who was part of the original KP monitoring mission to Zimbabwe, says she’s convinced the plan is “robust.”

“Zimbabwe now has a lot to do,” she says. “We learned a bit of a lesson from [self-suspended] Venezuela, which just walked away. For me, it was much more important to remain engaged. Zimbabwe is looking for help, and they kept saying how important the KP was to them.”

Possibly the most important question is what will happen to Zimbabwe if it doesn’t comply with the plan and its timetables. It will likely face suspension once more, but the political will to actually remove them may again be lacking. So is there incentive for them to act? The U.S. State Dept. is, for its part, talking tough; in a statement issued last week, it said: “If the Work Plan is not thoroughly implemented, we expect the KP to suspend Zimbabwe’s status in the KP certification scheme.”  This is an area where we’ll all have to wait and see.

– The action plan says that diamonds from Marange, where NGOs allege mass murder took place, can be exported only if subject “to examination and certification by the KP Monitor prior to export.” But, as with everything KP, the devil is in the details.

Anne Dunnebacke of NGO Global Witness argues the monitoring provisions are inadequate.

“There is only one person who is supposed to act as a Kimberley monitor,” she says. “If that person is given unlimited access, like it says, I suppose it could work, but one person can’t monitor much.”

Even so, as the State Dept. notes, Marange diamonds can only be exported “once the monitoring mechanism is established” – which means, until the Monitor is established, they are effectively banned.  In addition, the monitor will be backed up by a forensic auditor, and another Review Mission. So this is another area where we’ll have to wait and see.

– There was talk that Zimbabwe had threatened NGOs, and the speech given by Zimbabwe’s mining minister the first night seems to have offended just about everyone present. Dunnebacke notes: “I don’t know how someone can threaten NGOs and remain a member in good standing of the Kimberley Process.” This was obviously not something that was considered when the KP was drafted. But it’s certainly a reasonable request that participants not be threatened.

– In spite of all their reservations, the NGOs eventually decided not to block the action plan. “We felt the action plan was better than the status quo,” Dunnebacke said.

– The NGO’s post-meeting statement includes some remarkably blunt criticism of the current KP chair, hoping that Israel will provide “the leadership and direction that has been so conspicuously absent throughout this year.” Current chairman Bernhard Esau, a governmental official in Namibia, caused a a little stir a few months back when he was alleged to have said action against Zimbabwe will not be “taken seriously.” He later denied making those comments, but it showed all too well how difficult taking firm action against Zimbabwe would be.

– The internal issues of how the KP makes decisions were not addressed during this Plenary. But they will need to be, if the KP is ever going to avoid future spectacles like the one we just saw.

UPDATE: I just uploaded the final KP Zimbabwe work plan here.

JCK News Director