Recognizing the strength of the Kimberley Process but also its limitations, and consequently industry’s obligations

Edward Asscher

Press release – In an article published in the August edition of Rapaport Magazine, entitled “Atrocities Haunt Zimbabwe’s Diamond Fields,” Farai Maguwu, a courageous civil society leader, writes of the plight of artisanal miners in the country’s Marange region. 

They are a community that Mr. Maguwu has long defended. WDC greatly respects the selfless efforts he has invested on their behalf, often at great risk to himself. When, in 2010 he was arrested for his activities, WDC lobbied and advocated for his release.

I have no intention of disputing the details in his article. His account alleges human rights violations and instances of bribery and extortion by both state and private security officials at Marange.

What I would like to address is the ability of the Kimberley Process (KP) to deal with the situation in Zimbabwe. Providing a subhead to Mr. Maguwu’s article, the Rapaport editors wrote that the KP “continues to greenwash [Zimbabwe’s] conflict diamonds.” I understand their sentiment, but they are assigning the KP powers that it currently does not have.

Over almost 19 years, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) has been remarkably successful in eliminating almost entirely the trade in rough diamonds being used to finance civil war. It should be noted that, according to the KP’s Core Document, “conflict diamonds” are only rough goods used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. Thus, since there is no civil war in Zimbabwe today, by definition no conflict diamonds are being produced in the country.

But the KPCS is unfortunately limited in its scope. Unless that is expanded, it cannot be expected to be a panacea to other challenges afflicting artisanal miners, including human and labor rights violations, bribery and corruption.

WDC’s long-held position is that KPCS’s mission must be broadened so that it can address the type of challenges that Mr. Maguwu describes. This should be done by expanding the “conflict diamond” definition, so that it is provided the authority to address all instances of systemic violence related to rough diamonds.

To that end, we have worked closely with the Civil Society Coalition in the KP, and with a number of KP Participants. During the three-year review process that ended in 2019, we managed to convince a majority of the government Participants that change is required, but we fell short of obtaining the full consensus needed to amend the “conflict diamond” definition. Fortunately, the subject remains on the KP’s agenda, thanks to the position of the 2021 KP Chair not to wait for the next three-year review cycle.

But I am not suggesting that we sit idly by until the KP is able to reach consensus. We are obliged to protect the interests of our suppliers, including artisanal miners, and our consumers, who demand that the products they buy have social value and that their integrity is not compromised.

This the industry must achieve by doing due diligence. It is why WDC has updated its System of Warranties, by which the seller of any rough diamond, polished diamond and diamond set in jewelry declares on the transaction document that the merchandise is KP compliant, and also complies with universal principals of human rights, labor rights, anticorruption and anti-money laundering.

It also is why we encourage participants in our supply chain to implement third-party verified codes of best practices, like that developed by the Responsible Jewellery Council and certain mining companies.

Through this coordinated effort, as well as through broadening the scope of the KPCS, I believe we have the capacity to address the types of issues that Mr. Maguwu mentions. For the people any nation where our product is recovered, processed and sold, the diamond should be a resource for sustainable development and a symbol of hope for future generations.

By Edward Asscher, WDC President

Source World Diamond Council