Kimberly Process Conundrums

Diamond-Lighthouse-selling-blood-stone-graphic

In 2003 the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, the KPCS, was formed with the intention of eliminating, or at least drastically reducing, “blood diamonds” from finding their way into the legitimate rough diamond market.  Aside from the immediate brutality and violence associated with the procurement of “conflict diamonds,” there are far reaching ramifications inherent in their inclusion in the diamond market; specifically, the funding of coups by weapon heavy rebel factions and the eventually toppling of U.N. sanctioned governments.  While there will always be fundamental challenges in policing what was once a completely unregulated industry, despite its shortcomings, the Kimberly Process has in the very least addressed the intrinsic problems of diamond mining and trading and forcefully invoked a system of accountability.

Currently there are 81 countries that participate in the KPCS, including all of the major players in the international diamond trade industry, which has given it wide ranging credibility.  Yet in recent years the KPCS has come under harsh scrutiny.  Worldwide watchdog associations, notably Global Witness, a U.K. founded NGO, have rescinded their involvement in the Kimberly assemblage (in 2011), citing that the KPCS has not effectively suspended blood diamonds from entering the global market.

Several countries have been expelled from the KPCS to date.  Proponents of the organization have claimed that this indicates that the Kimberly Process overseers have been vigilant, while opponents have countered that the countries in question never should have received admittance in the first place.  One nation that came under the global spotlight is Venezuela.  It was revealed that Venezuela was illegally transferring raw diamonds to the neighboring countries of Brazil and Guyana, where they seamlessly merged with legal, sanctioned traded diamonds.  When it became too great a secret to hide anymore, Venezuela “removed themselves” from the KPCS in 2008, and stated they would reapply once they had repaired their internal structural flaws.

Prior to this, the Republic of Congo was excused from the KPCS  in 2003 because they couldn’t provide the origins of their diamonds.  The common belief was that they came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the much larger country to their east.  No explanation has been offered as to why the DRC was suspected of supplying conflict diamonds to the Republic of Congo and still remained an active member of the KPCS, unscathed.  Eventually the Republic of Congo would be able to prove legitimacy and was allowed reentry into the KPCS in 2007.  Along the Ivory Coast, the former French colony of  Côte d’Ivoire was abruptly removed from the KPCS when diamonds, along with other exports of theirs, including cocoa, were found to have been mined and collected by unsavory and illicit means.

In 2013 the DRC, along with Angola, would receive unwanted international recognition again, when the World Policy Journal, Time Magazine and the BBC all released pieces detailing the way in which these countries handled their diamond related finances.  It was revealed that roughly $3.5 billion in diamond funds were funneled to the “tax friendly” countries of Dubai and Switzerland.  By utilizing such unregulated banking systems, which provide unfettered secrecy for their clients, the various news sources stated that the DRC and Angola are able to operate with virtual impunity when it comes to hiding the origins of their diamonds and potentially unscrupulous diamond mining practices.  Both of these countries currently remain in the KPCS.

Issues with the countries participating in the KPCS are clearly not always easy to identify, and the organization itself certainly continues to have its work cut out for it.  In spite of the criticisms the KPCS has received (and will continue to incur), one thing is for certain: the diamond industry is far more regulated and monitored than it was even twenty years ago.  Hopefully all parties involved in the diamond trade business will keep striving to adhere to a code of integrity and culpability, while they continue to enjoy profits.

-Joe Leone 

 

coming soon: “Diamond Buyers Online: Trading in Diamond Rings ‘n Things” 

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