U.S. to Head Kimberley Process, but Meeting Brings Mixed Reactions



The World Diamond Council dubbed the Kimberley Process Plenary in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, a “historic success”—but not everyone was so pleased.

Aside from reaching a long-delayed accord on Zimbabwe, the Kimberley Process announced that the United States would take over as the organization’s chairman in 2012, with South Africa named vice-chair. There had been no announced candidate to take over the certification scheme for most of the year.

Reports say that the KP made significant strides toward instituting one much-sought-after goal of human rights groups: a “professional staff” that would handle the Process’ administrative functions.

Still, most of the attention in the meeting’s aftermath focused on its deal to allow exports from controversial diamond fields in the Marange region of Zimbabwe.

The Civil Society Coalition that participates in the KP blasted the deal, saying it puts the integrity of the diamond supply chain “on the line,” noting it will permit the release of stockpiled diamonds linked to the worst bouts of violence in late 2008 and 2009.

“How can consumers buy a diamond this Christmas with any confidence that they are not buying a Marange diamond mined in unquestionable violence?” said Alan Martin, research director of Partnership Africa Canada, in a statement.  

The statement added: “This deal does nothing to boost the confidence of members of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, who had boycotted the Kinshasa meeting over fears that substantive and ongoing concerns about Zimbabwe’s compliance would be ignored.”

Industry and government viewed the deal more favorably.

A statement from the European Union said it “welcomed” the deal, which received a standing ovation when it passed in Kinshasa.

“The EU recognizes that this agreement is a positive outcome not only for the KP but also for the people of Zimbabwe, enhancing transparency so that they can benefit from the revenues that will derive from the export of their natural resources,” the statement said.

It said the E.U. was particularly pleased the deal included “a credible oversight mechanism” and “a role for civil society.”

In a briefing, U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the United States felt the “compromise could have been stronger” so it “abstained.”

Still, America didn’t block the deal to avoid “continued paralysis of the whole process,” Nuland added. “With this compromise…we do have some eyes on this process, we have reporting requirements, we have civil society there, which was a better situation than we’ve had in the past.” (For more, see Interview With the State Department Special Advisor on Conflict Diamonds.)

The World Diamond Council hailed the deal.

“This is a real milestone,” said Eli Izhakoff, president of the World Diamond Council, in a statement. “It has been a long time in coming, and I fervently hope that it allows us to move both the KP and the industry forward.”

Avi Paz, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, said in a statement that “it is of utmost importance that all players in the pipeline support this resolution, regardless of their criticism of it.”

“We must all understand that the alternative, which is disassociation and rejection, would create havoc,” Paz continued. “That would negatively impact not only the lives of the Zimbabwean people, but also of millions of others worldwide who depend on the diamond industry for their livelihoods.”

One industry member was not so supportive.

In a blog post, Chicago’s Leber Jeweler called the decision “a tragedy” that compromises the KP’s effectiveness.

“Kimberley Process certified is no longer a guarantee that the diamonds you buy are truly conflict-free diamonds,” the blog said.

For more on this decision, read The Kimberley Process: Winners and Losers From the Two Year Zim-broglio.