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Civil society expresses vote of no confidence in conflict diamond scheme

23rd June 2011

Activist organisations today expressed a vote of no confidence in the Kimberley Process, and walked out of the scheme’s meeting in Kinshasa, in protest at its failure to address human rights abuses associated with the diamond trade.

The Kimberley Process rough diamond certification scheme was designed to break the links between diamonds and violence, and brings together governments, the diamond industry and civil society to achieve this aim. However, civil society organisations from West Africa, Central and Southern Africa, Europe and North America are deeply concerned that the scheme is not meeting its most basic commitments:

• It is unable to hold to account participating countries that repeatedly break the rules;
• It does not prevent diamonds from fuelling violence and human rights violations;
• It does not provide guarantees to consumers that they are buying ‘clean’ diamonds;
• Respect and support for civil society, as an integral member of the tripartite structure of the KP, is being eroded.

“We represent communities that have suffered from diamond fuelled violence, and communities that hope to benefit from diamond wealth,” said Aminata Kelly-Lamin from Network Movement for Justice and Development, Sierra Leone. “We can no longer go back to these people, look them in the eye and tell them that the scheme is working to protect their interests, when it is not.”

Over the past two years, the Kimberley Process has faced one of its biggest challenges in trying to address state-sponsored violence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields. A succession of weak deals between Zimbabwe and the KP culminated this week in a draft agreement being tabled which falls far short of what is needed to protect civilians living and working in Marange. The proposed deal fails to safeguard the role of Zimbabwean civil society organisations seeking to monitor conditions on the ground. Moreover, it does not contain sufficient checks and balances to prevent substantial volumes of illicit diamonds from entering the global diamond supply chain, and further undermines the credibility of the Kimberley Process.

“Marange has been the scene of very serious human rights violations over the past three years. Yet the deal tabled did not credibly address the question of how to protect local NGOs monitoring and reporting to the KP on conditions in the area,” said Alfred Brownell from Green Advocates, Liberia. “Any new agreement that the KP signs up to regarding Marange diamonds must address directly key issues such as the involvement of soldiers in diamond mining, rampant smuggling and beatings by security forces.”

In Zimbabwe and elsewhere, civil society remains committed to preventing conflict diamonds from entering international markets, to addressing challenges facing the artisanal diamond mining sector and to being a voice for communities in diamond producing countries and consumers.

However, there is a significant, and widening, gap between how the Kimberley Process presents itself, and what it is actually achieving. Until this is addressed, it is difficult to see how civil society organisations can justify active participation in the scheme.

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