NGOs: Venezuela Weakens Effort to Control Conflict Diamonds

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RAPAPORT… In a statement sent out late today, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called for the immediate expulsion of Venezuela from the  Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.  

“Venezuela has been in a state of serious non-compliance for four years,” said Ian Smillie of Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), “and it is making a mockery of an important conflict prevention mechanism.”
Venezuela was a charter member of the Kimberley Process (KP) from its 2003 inception, but it submitted no statistical information after the first quarter of 2005, and no annual reports. For two years, through 2005 and 2006, Kimberley Process committees dealing with monitoring, statistics and membership sent e-mails, letters and diplomatic démarches to Caracas. Venezuelan diplomatic missions in several countries were asked to convey messages of deepening concern to their government. Nothing worked.

An investigative report produced by PAC in 2006 reported on a combination of ineptitude, apathy and corruption in the Venezuelan diamond business. The Lost World: Diamond Mining and Smuggling in Venezuela showed how the Venezuelan government had lost control of, and interest in, its diamond industry. PAC placed production estimates at about 150,000 carats a year, and yet Venezuela had officially exported only 33,000 carats in the four years it had been a member of the Kimberley Process.

Venezuela finally attended two Kimberley Process meetings during 2007. It denied the charges and said it would permit an international review team to visit during the first quarter of 2008. Different dates for the review have since come and gone, with silence from Venezuela.

“The KPCS is a voluntary system,” said Abu Brima of Sierra Leone’s Network Movement for Justice and Development. “Nobody is forcing Venezuela to be a member. If it wants to assist in the fight against the conflict diamonds that ravaged Africa, that is good. If it wants to be a respected member of the world’s diamond producing and trading countries, that too is good. But it must meet KPCS minimum standards.”

The groups contended that everything Venezuela has done during the past four years, it has demonstrated the opposite. It appears not to care about conflict diamonds. It appears not to care about Africa or the hundreds of thousands of people who died during its diamond wars. It seems not even to care about Venezuelan diamonds. Venezuela has demonstrated by its actions that it does not respect the KPCS and cannot meet its minimum standards for internal controls and exports. The KPCS has demonstrated that diplomacy, praise and procrastination do not work, the groups stated.

“Venezuela has blatantly rejected several Administrative Decisions calling for KP peer review visits. Venezuela should stop wasting the time of the Kimberley Process, and the Kimberley Process should stop wasting its own time on Venezuela,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness. “KP ineptitude sends a disastrous message to other countries for whom participation is expensive and time-consuming. The Kimberley Process must now expel Venezuela from its ranks.”

Civil society organizations working with the Kimberley Process believe that if and when Venezuela wishes to rejoin the community of nations working to end the scourge of conflict diamonds, discussions can start afresh.

The NGOs signing the joint statement were:

Centre du Commerce international pour le Développement, Conakry
Centre National d’Appui au Développement et à la Participation, Kinshasa
Fatal Transactions, Amsterdam
Global Witness, London
Green Advocates, Monrovia
Network Movement for Justice and Development, Freetown
Partnership Africa Canada, Ottawa


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