Kimberley Process Passes Control System

After a year of sometimes contentious deliberations, the 35 governments participating in the Kimberley Process agreed on a system to control conflict diamonds—but already some are slamming it as “too weak.”

The system will certify every rough diamond before it enters and/or exits a country. Its goal is to eliminate illicit stones from the supply chain.

The controversy is over how to verify compliance with the system. The working document notes that monitoring can be done only with the “consent of the [country] concerned”—in other words, a country has to agree to be monitored before it can happen, which is not something a country that’s violating the rules is likely to do. Partnership Africa Canada, an Ottawa-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), called this a “half measure” that makes monitoring “voluntary.” Sources say the United States delegation insisted on a weaker system that would be compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organization.

Even some in the industry were disappointed by the end result. “We’re not too happy about it, and we had hoped for something stronger, but it’s better to have this than nothing at all,” says Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council, the industry group addressing the issue. “Once the system goes into effect, it can always be tightened up. I don’t think anyone is going to try and circumvent the system, because the whole world will be watching.”

Despite the controversy, the agreement represents something of a breakthrough for a process that just months ago seemed hopelessly deadlocked. Another NGO, Global Witness, also had reservations about the monitoring mechanism but still praised the system as a “good one.”

Now that there’s agreement on the system, the industry has one more hurdle—implementing it. The working document calls for most of the system to be in place by June, with full implementation required by the end of this year.

But there’s been an unexpected delay. Participants need the blessing of the United Nations to give the agreement extra force and wanted the Kimberley “working document” on the U.N. agenda last December. But the issue won’t be taken up until the U.N. reconvenes in March.

Clean Diamond Trade Act. In related news, the fate of the Clean Diamond Trade Act, which codifies the Kimberley Process into United States law, was uncertain at press time.

After the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio), reached a compromise with the Bush administration, the revamped law sailed through the House 408 to six. However, the bill’s Senate sponsors, including Sen. Rich Durbin (D-Ill.), balked at some of Hall’s compromises.

“They have some concerns about some of the changes in the language,” says Jewelers of America senior vice president David Rocha. “We are hoping that they will go ahead and pass it and then try and modify some of the language next year,” he adds, noting that it’s easier to modify an existing bill then to pass a new one from scratch.