Will the KP ever be reformed to address the reality behind diamonds?

ARTICLE | 16 November 2018

The 2018 Kimberley Process Plenary was recently concluded in Brussels. Member countries, representatives from the diamond industry and civil society have during a full week reviewed successes and failures of the KP’s 15 years of operation. 

For many years, reformation of the process has been high on the agenda, including debates on if and how to broaden Kimberley Process (KP) definition of a “conflict diamond”. The current definition is highly criticized – by Swedwatch amongst many others – for being too narrow and thereby irrelevant.

Apart from some African and Middle Eastern KP member countries, many agree that the KP has lost credibility and must be updated to capture the reality behind diamonds – a reality that in many countries of extraction is tainted by severe human rights abuses, including the worst forms of child labour, sexual exploitationforced labourover-violence and killings by security forces, and environmental degradation.

Leading human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a statement during the week of the plenary, saying that if the diamond industry genuinely wants to address the problems, “it needs to clean-up its act and no longer approach respect for human rights and responsible business as an optional exercise”.

Despite a reform commitment expressed in the 2017 Plenary, the Brussels meeting spent hours on discussing whether the KP should be addressing the crucial concerns desperately raised by civil society for years, research institute Ipis wrote in an article on their website, expressing disappointment by the resistance to reform the process. In an interview, Shamiso Mitsi, Chair of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, stated that “The resisting participants will find themselves on the wrong side of history.”

It remains to be seen if the discussions in Brussels will lead to improvements. As India takes up the rotating KP Chairmanship in 2019 – a country where businesses are particularly known for making fortunes from the diamond trade – many worry that the window for reforming the KP will once again close.

* The KP was launched in 2003 to end the trade of ‘blood diamonds’ – gems mined by armed rebel groups in African conflict zones like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola, to finance their rebellions. The KP Chairmanship rotates between the 54 member countries (representing 81 countries as the EU counts as one) on a yearly basis. The EU Chairs the KP during 2018.