Botswana Plenary Helps Rejuvenate KP Commitments

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RAPAPORT… The Kimberley Process (KP) members and affiliates came away feeling good about themselves following the annual KP plenary session, which was held this November in Gaborone, Botswana. Steps were taken at the meeting that seemed to appease many of those KP participants, stakeholders and observers who were concerned the KP Certification Scheme (KPCS) may have started to lose ground in the war on illicit diamond trade in some countries.


There was more progress made at the plenary gathering in Botswana in terms of intensifying the blanket commitments to eradicating conflict diamonds than at many of the KP’s recent meetings, according to the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) and Global Witness (GW), who have been lobbying against blood diamonds for almost a decade.
KP members were confronted with a barrage of contentious issues at the session, which was attended by about 300 delegates. Topping the list was an October 2006 United Nations (UN) panel of experts’ report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and a GW investigation alleging that conflict diamonds are leaking out of Côte d’Ivoire through Ghana. Other issues included PAC revelations of Venezuela having allowed all its diamond production to be smuggled out of the country for more than a year and of blatant KP-related fraud in Brazil and Guyana. In addition, the NGOs contended that the three-year self-managed review of the KPCS has failed to adequately follow through on important recommendations, such as governments’ stricter enforcement of the KPCS and KPCS funding support.

Prior to the meeting, PAC had issued a stinging report — Killing Kimberley? Conflict Diamonds and Paper Tigers — that raised doubts about the effectiveness of the KPCS since early 2005. “We came to this meeting with deep concerns about the future of the Kimberley Process,” noted Ian Smillie, PAC research coordinator, who had presented a gloomy opening address to the plenary meeting. But, he later assessed, “all of these issues were addressed in a constructive manner.” For instance, detailed conditions for Ghana’s continued KP membership were established, aimed at improving its diamond controls — with independent assistance to be provided, and a short turnaround time for compliance. And a KP review mission was planned to Venezuela to tackle the government on its apparent lack of control over its diamond sector. The four-day KP plenary session also reopened the question of funding and decided that this and other matters that had been swept under the carpet after the three-year review would receive serious consideration in the year ahead.

Furthermore, World Diamond Council (WDC) Chairman Eli Izhakoff called for greater government oversight of industry compliance with KPCS standards as a way of reassuring consumers that KPCS certified diamonds are indeed free of conflict. “NGOs also look forward to specific and more rigorous industry action in this regard,” pointed out GW’s Corinna Gilfillan.


Some of the objectives that the KP promised to put into action were:
• Implementation of all recommendations contained in the KP three-year review, including transparency of KP statistical reporting.
• Development of stronger internal controls to strengthen government oversight of the industry within the next year, as demanded by NGOs and the diamond industry.
• Strong measures and assistance from governments and the diamond industry to help KP participants like Ghana with compliance.
• Development of formal procedures in order to manage significant noncompliance by participant nations.

“The clear message being sent by [KP] participant nations, civil society and the diamond industry is that this unique collaboration is determined to continue to work together,” said KP Chairman Kago Moshashane, who was credited with much of the Botswana meeting’s success. “We may not always agree on everything, but we are united in our view that the Kimberley Process is the best mechanism to bring a complete end to the trade in conflict diamonds.”

At the same time, the WDC, which will lend technical expertise to a number of countries, including Ghana, to assist in the full implementation of the KP, said in a statement that the plenary meeting had dealt with remaining concerns about conflict diamonds. “The plenary agreed to all of industry’s demands on import/export controls, statistics and appropriate oversight of industry self-regulation measures,” WDC’s Izhakoff declared in the statement. “The plenary in Botswana not only ensures the effectiveness and credibility of the Kimberley Process, but also recognizes the importance of working with initiatives by industry and NGOs on the economic, social, environmental and development needs of the informal mining sector.”


With the generally upbeat sentiment that emerged from — and the hailed success of — the Botswana session, the pressure is on the KP to deliver results. Consequently, among other key resolutions, the KP has given Ghana three months to get its house in order. After hearing the findings of an earlier KP review mission to Ghana as well as those of a UN panel of experts on Côte d’Ivoire, the KP plenary concluded that there were credible indications that diamonds mined in the rebel-held territory of Côte d’Ivoire were seeping out onto international markets through Ghana and that Ghana has not complied with its KP obligations. The plenary approved a plan to enable Ghana to bolster its internal diamond controls and make certain only Ghanaian diamonds are exported. Another special KP audit delegation will visit Ghana in three months to review progress and verify compliance.

Under the watchful eye of the WDC, Ghana has to be able to show it can identify diamonds that do not meet the requirements of the KPCS and tighten systems to prevent the flow of diamonds from the conflict zones of Côte d’Ivoire. If the KP review committee determines that diamonds are still being smuggled into Ghana, then the country faces sanctions being imposed on its KP status, an outcome that would effectively prohibit Ghana from trading any of its annual production of about 1 million carats. Although it did not accept the UN’s claims, Ghana’s government has indicated it will fall into line with the KP edict. “We will do all to plug all the diamond trade loopholes where we find them,” a Ghanaian official told IRIN, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs news website.

NGOs, in a letter to KP Chair Moshashane, also drew attention to the UN experts’ implications “that with likely collusion of diamond dealers in Belgium and Israel, a significant volume of conflict diamonds are entering the legitimate trade and being certified as conflict-free.”

“The world diamond trade is almost clean now, with 99.8 percent of it certified as conflict-free,” Moshashane asserted. “But we still need to sanitize the remaining 0.2 percent, which is sourced from conflict zones and other illegal enterprises. Continued trade in tainted diamonds can destabilize … the whole industry.” GW’s Gilfillan added that the Ghana situation reflected a broader problem of weak government controls. “The Kimberley Process needs to have effective controls across the diamond pipeline,” she explained, from producing countries to the end-user countries that cut and polish the gemstones.

Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Charles Tibone advocated that participant countries should screen companies and individuals looking to do business in their countries in an effort to weed out those with suspicious backgrounds and/or possible links to conflict diamonds. Botswana produces diamonds worth $3.2 billion annually, accounting for 76 percent of export revenue, 45 percent of government revenue and 33 percent of gross domestic product, highlighting the importance and benefits of diamonds to some African economies. Legally traded diamonds are estimated to contribute roughly $8.4 billion a year to African economies annually, according to figures from IRIN.

In 2007, the KP chair responsibilities will be handed over to the European Commission (EC). During the Botswana plenary, New Zealand and Bangladesh became new participants of the KP, increasing membership to 71 countries — including the 25 members of the European Union represented by the EC. Liberia, Mali, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of Congo have expressed interest in joining the KP and sent representatives to the meeting. Liberia is in the process of trying to establish a diamond certification scheme to satisfy the criteria of the KP.

— Additional reporting by Jeanette Goldman and Jeff Miller.

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