During a particularly bloody time in Africa, some well-meaning, but naïve individuals decided they would put a stop to the purchase, sales and transportation of diamonds that originated in conflict countries. They, along with the not-so altruistic major diamond mining conglomerates worked out a system in which source governments would issue certificates of compliance to certify their diamonds were of non-conflict origin.
When the world was informed of this new method to protect the unfortunate souls who were victims of these war torn countries, people rejoiced and the good people at the UN and other benevolent organizations patted themselves on the back for a job well done.
Unfortunately, from almost day one, the Kimberley Process was a very sad joke. Diamonds continued to flow from conflict countries. At first, it was circumvented within the diamond manufacturing industry. There were mining companies and their customers who put profits ahead of the well-being of those who were being tortured and killed. They simply shipped the diamonds to non-conflict countries and had the Kimberley Certificates issued in those countries. This worked well for a time. Soon however, this became publicly known and a few diamond companies paid a price in reputation and in lost income. To be honest, I do not remember if anyone was ever punished or paid any fines when they were caught. Additionally, people have short memories and these diamond companies continued to do business as usual.
Because of the exposure diamond companies faced, they became more sophisticated in circumventing the Kimberley System. As an example, some small African companies and or individuals would smuggle goods out of country ‘A’ into country ‘B’. They would make an agreement with a mine owner in country
‘B’ and mix their goods with the mine goods and would then certify the goods as having originated from a particular mine in country ‘B’. Even today, many goods are taken from one country and certified in another.
It is interesting to note, that some governments do not discourage this practice because they receive the benefit of collecting the taxes on any diamonds that they stamp as Kimberley approved. This is one heck of an incentive to close their eyes. There are a number of other ways to get Kimberley certificates from countries other than the source country. However, it is not the purpose of this article to expose these methods.
The only country today where there are rumors (fact?) of forced labor is Zimbabwe. The U.S.and some European nations have sanctions against Zimbabwe and as I wrote in my previous blog posting ‘Zimbabwe Diamonds: “To Buy or Not to Buy.” American companies cannot legally work with Zimbabwe diamonds. Because the Zimbabwe government is allowed to issue Kimberley certificates, many countries are buying and shipping Zimbabwe goods.
This has created a dilemma for Charmian Gooch of Global Witness, the watchdog of the Kimberley Process who recently resigned in protest to Zimbabwe having the right to issue Kimberley certificates. In his defense, it does go against the intent, if not the law of the Kimberley Process agreement. For those of us in the industry, we have known the Kimberley Process was useless except as feel-good propaganda. Is it any wonder that so many countries and companies feel no guilt in circumventing the process?
From a December 2011 article, it was stated that the withdrawal of the Global Witness watchdog group from the Kimberley Process certification program, which is governed by diamond-trading nations, highlights growing problems in the system set up in 2003 to stop sales of rough diamonds from African war zones. (Sandra Nyaira | Washington)
Further, Charmian Gooch is quoted as saying; "Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes," He further states that Global Witness of London has become an accomplice to diamond laundering —whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.
If the head of Global Witness believes the Kimberly Process is useless, the question must be asked”; is it time to end the Kimberley Process requirements?”
Louis Pearl G.G.
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