Thoughts on the Kimberley Process

Another round of negative headlines on the Kimberley Process and I have the following thoughts:

 

-         The industry is walking a bit of a tightrope here, particularly in its communications. While it needs to be seen as on the side of the “good guys” (the NGOs), the industry doesn’t want to heavily criticize the KP too much, because that will damage consumer confidence in its product.  The NGOs are in a sense walking the same tightrope, as  many have said they don’t want to hurt the legitimate diamond industry. And yet, in the past, many have thrown caution to the wind on that last point; I’ve had NGO reps say to me it doesn’t matter if the industry’s sales go down because of the “Blood Diamond” movie. But I would argue that it’s more of a concern in this current environment, with countries that are dependent on diamond revenue like Botswana taking real economic hits because of decreased demand. It’s worth noting that Global Witness’ editorial in the Independent attacks governments, not the industry. That is only right – the governments control Kimberley, and are creating the problems. But in the past some NGOs haven’t been so careful.

 

-         A lot of people are using these latest problems as an excuse to attack the Kimberley Process, and suggest we shouldn’t have such a system because a) it can never work, because diamonds can never really be controlled, and b) it doesn’t solve every ill the industry has. You hear these things from people who hate the industry, and also from people in the industry who think the whole thing is overblown. To them I ask: What is your better solution? As far as I know, no one has proposed one. Diamonds, and the diamond industry, aren’t going away, so we better find a way to control them, and make sure that gems that are involved in horrible things don’t come into the main stream of commerce.

 

Let us not forget: When we started this, we had three countries torn about by diamond wars, and a lot of people were dying. Conflict diamonds accounted for 4% of the overall total. Now, they account for less than one percent, and diamonds are a minimal player in strife in Africa. Whether that’s all because of Kimberley, I don’t know, but it sure hasn’t hurt. So we should be proud of what’s been accomplished. The question is, what will happen if another war does break out? Can the KP do what it needs to do? Given the sluggish and inconsistent way it’s handled all these issues, we have cause to worry. And that is why seemingly unrelated issues like smuggling really are the industry’s concern. And while the human rights issues may seem a little off-course, it’s certainly fair for consumers to not want their diamonds to be involved in mass killings in Zimbabwe.

 

Everyone with a conscience has to hope that the KP will find a way to solve these issues, and the parties will eventually come to an agreement. That’s generally been the pattern on KP disputes, from monitoring  onward. There is too much at stake for it not to. For reasons that I hope I don’t need to go into here, the KP is vital to the industry’s future. And it needs to be as strong as possible.

JCK News Director