NEWS RELEASE: Global Witness leaves Kimberley Process, calls for diamond trade to be held accountable

5th December 2011

http://www.globalwitness.org/

Global Witness today announced that it has left the Kimberley Process, the international certification scheme established to stop the trade in blood diamonds.

The Kimberley Process’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated, said the group. Despite intensive efforts over many years by a coalition of NGOs, the scheme’s main flaws and loopholes have   not been fixed and most of the governments that run the scheme continue to show no interest in reform.

“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes” said Charmian Gooch, a Founding Director of Global Witness.

“The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”

In a shocking move, the Kimberley Process recently authorised exports from two companies operating in the controversial Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean army seized control of the area in 2008, killing around 200 miners. Mining concessions were then granted in legally questionable circumstances to several companies, some of them associated with senior figures in Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. Newspapers have reported that the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation, the state security service aligned with Mugabe whose members are accused of committing acts of violence against opposition supporters, directly benefits from off-budget diamond revenues.

“Over the last decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters. Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election there is a very high risk of Zanu PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage,” Gooch continued.

“Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and industry should not supply them,” said Gooch. “All existing contracts in the Marange fields should be cancelled and retendered with terms of reference which reflect international best practice on revenue sharing, transparency, oversight by and protection of the affected communities.”

The diamond industry should be required to demonstrate that the diamonds it sells are not fuelling abuses – by complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure. Governments must show leadership by putting these standards into law.

“Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, and what was done to obtain it,” added Gooch. “The diamond industry must finally take responsibility for its supply chains and prove that the stones it sells are clean.”

/Ends

Contact:

Annie Dunnebacke: +44 7912 517 127; adunnebacke@globalwitness.org

Andrea Pattison: +44 7970 103 083; apattison@globalwitness.org

Note to editors:

Global Witness today wrote to the Chair of the Kimberley Process to announce its withdrawal as an official Observer. Global Witness first exposed the problem of blood diamonds in 1998 and played a key role in establishing the Kimberley Process. The KP is a government-led rough diamond certification scheme launched in 2003, which requires member states to pass national legislation and set up an import/export control system for diamonds. Over 75 of the world’s diamond producing, trading and manufacturing countries participate in the scheme. Global Witness has been an official Observer in the Kimberley Process since 2003 and a member of the KP Civil Society Coalition. Global Witness will continue to work with NGOs in the Civil Society Coalition to reform the diamond sector.

Read a message from Global Witness Founding Director, Charmian Gooch

Why we are leaving the Kimberley Process – A message from Global Witness Founding Director Charmian Gooch

5th December 2011
The diamond trader looked me in the eye and said “If I don’t buy them somebody else will”. He was talking about blood diamonds from Angola, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. It was 1997 and I was sitting in a cramped and anonymous office in Antwerp.  I had just returned from investigations in Angola that revealed the awful truth that diamonds were funding and fuelling conflict and the world didn’t appear to realise there was a problem. Millions of people were caught up in the horror of this protracted war, with many hundreds of thousands dead, maimed, or homeless.

Following more research and investigations in Europe, Africa and America, Global Witness launched a campaign to alert the world to what was happening in late 1998. We questioned the accepted view that this was just how the diamond trade worked, and challenged governments, the United Nations and the industry to face up to responsibilities and do something about it.

There was a swift response and recognition of the problem from all involved and mass media coverage internationally. An increasing number of other campaigning groups took up the issue and the Kimberley Process (KP) – a global scheme designed to break the links between diamonds and conflict – was negotiated and then launched at the start of 2003.

The diamond-fuelled wars came to an end for a range of reasons, and countries put in place systems and structures to control the trade in rough diamonds. So that should have been deemed a success, right? Sadly not. Global Witness and a coalition of NGOs – the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition – have pushed continuously to make the KP work. However, the shameful truth is the governments just won’t hold each to account.

For its part, the diamond industry avoided regulation at the time the Kimberley Process was set up by undertaking to deliver a meaningful supply chain control scheme. But nine years on, the industry’s ‘system of warranties’ lacks independent verification. The fact is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, or whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.

The world has moved on but the Kimberley Process remains stuck in time. Ever more insular, the KP has spent the past few years lurching from one shoddy compromise to the next in a manner that strips away its integrity and undermines its earlier achievements.  The KP has failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, breaches of the rules by Venezuela and diamonds fuelling corruption and state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe.

Most recently, the decision to endorse unlimited diamond exports from named companies in the Marange region of Zimbabwe – the scene of mass killings by the national army – has turned an international conflict prevention mechanism into a cynical corporate accreditation scheme.

We now have to recognise that this scheme, begun with so many good intentions, has done much that is useful but ultimately has failed to deliver. It has proved beyond doubt that voluntary schemes are not going to cut it in a multi-polar world where companies and countries compete for mineral resources.

The Kimberley Process’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated. It is time for the diamond sector to start complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure. Governments must show leadership by putting these standards into law.

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