The World Diamond Council this week voted in favor of discussing a change to the definition of conflict diamonds as described in the Kimberley Process Core Document. While not binding, it is a much-needed evolution. But will it actually result in any change?
The first definition in the first section of the KP Core Document states: CONFLICT DIAMONDS means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments, as described in relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions insofar as they remain in effect, or in other similar UNSC resolutions which may be adopted in the future, and as understood and recognised in United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 55/56, or in other similar UNGA resolutions which may be adopted in future.
Drafted in an era when civil war was ravaging diamond-producing countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the definition above addressed the concerns of the day.
Since that time, concerns have shifted to other situations relating to diamonds, for example, reports that the legal government of Zimbabwe used extreme violence against its own people in the diamond producing Marange area.
From a purely technical standpoint, diamonds mined in Marange are not “Conflict Diamonds,” but KP-member countries and the diamond community were flexible enough to act nonetheless. Pressure began to mount to modernize and broaden the definition of conflict.
The WDC has voted to adopt a resolution that “expresses support for discussions pertaining to widening the conflict diamonds definition in the Core Documents of the KPCS on the following basis: ‘Diamond-related violence in rough diamond producing and trading areas’. The WDC considers the proposal by the KP Chair a good basis for moving the discussion forward.” This substantially expands the current definition of trade by rebel forces – if discussions actually get there.
Resistance to expanding the definition exits for two main reasons. The first is the sentiment that the UN should address strife rather than leaving it to the trade organization that is viewed as a sort of diamond customs system.
The second concern is due to concerns that if the definition was expanded to include “violence,” somebody may propose banning China from KP over its hold of Tibet, the U.S. over its military presence in Afghanistan or Israel over cross-border shooting with Gaza.
In fact, there are already calls for such sanctions even though diamonds are not part of these conflicts. Such proposals are as ridiculous as calling for a ban on trading cucumbers.
The suggested language, drafted during a break at the WDC annual meeting on Monday, addresses those fears and defuses that potential bomb. It also creates a basis for discussion, but nothing more.
Here is the catch – the diamond industry, as represented by the WDC, has stepped up to the plate. However, the industry is only an observer, not a member, of KP. Only KP-member countries can change the Core Document. They may, and likely will, talk about this for years to come, with little resolution Before the discussion already get underway, India, Russia and China have already stated their opposition to the initiative, a severe blow to a voting system that requires unanimous agreement to implement change.
Change is in their hands for the betterment of the industry, the people it supports and in the name of decency.