Why so many hate the Kimberley Process—but don’t leave

Rob Bates

The Kimberley Process [ended its virtual plenary the week of November 12], and it [looked like that would follow] an all-too-familiar pattern.

The attending nongovernmental organizations—formally known as the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC)— [issued] a statement lamenting, once again, that the KP has lost a chance to prove its relevancy in the new era. The World Diamond Council [issued] also a statement, expressing some of the same sentiments, in far gentler terms, but also stressing the certification scheme’s importance and success. It [called] again for the KP’s conflict diamond definition to be broadened, even though that proposal appears perpetually stalled.

The attending governments will pass a year-end KP-supporting resolution in the United Nations, which has largely disengaged from diamond issues, having bigger fish to fry, including a possibly frying planet.

All of which raises the question: If no one is all that excited about the KP, why have it all? Years back, participants boasted of a congenial “family.” Now, meetings have grown contentious. “I left,” one participant said, when I asked what was happening. “They are still arguing.”

It’s especially painful to watch the KP struggle to control the flow of diamonds from the Central African Republic (CAR)—the one country that still produces conflict diamonds under the KP’s official definition. As the saying goes, that’s its one job, and it’s failing at it.

Some have suggested that the KP needs to be slimmed down. Right now, it covers every rough diamond in the world. One could argue it’s a waste of resources to certify diamonds from, say, Canada, and perhaps it would be better to have a narrower scheme laser-focused on CAR, the one universally agreed-on problem area. Or perhaps just let it run as a regular import and export system, like CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

And yet, despite all its issues, the KP will likely stay as it is. First, it’s not hurting anyone, it increases transparency in the industry, and it brings order to a once-largely unregulated business.

It’s also true that “traditional definition” conflict diamonds were once a huge problem, tearing three countries apart. Conflict diamonds haven’t gone away completely, but they are far less of an issue. That may or may not be due to the KP. We’ll never know—but it probably didn’t hurt.

The main argument for dismantling the KP is that the industry uses it to “green-wash” mined diamonds, when it still has serious issues in its supply chain. Whether or not one agrees, that is not enough reason to destroy a pretty extensive worldwide certification scheme. Jewelers will simply find another way to handle customer concerns, especially with more tracking systems coming on the market. Anyone who Googles the KP can see it has issues.

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Source JCK Online