Diamonds are not necessarily forever – by Peter Fabricius (Daily Maverick – November 13, 2018)

Daily Maverick

First published by ISS Today

African governments’ continued resistance to expanding the definition of conflict diamonds could jeopardise the market for mined gems.

The participants in the Kimberley Process, including 19 African governments, are meeting this week in Brussels to review the successes and failures of its first 15 years of operation and, many hope, adapt it to the demands of a changing environment.

The process was launched in 2003 by diamond-producing countries, much of the diamond industry and several civil society watchdogs. They were responding to growing global concerns about “blood diamonds” – gems mined by armed rebel groups in African conflict zones like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola to finance their rebellions.

It created a scheme in which rough diamonds had to be certified as not having been mined by armed groups fighting legitimate governments – before they could be legitimately exported into the diamond market.

Fifteen years later, most observers would acknowledge that the Kimberley Process has done good work, especially in its early years. It probably saved the industry from what looked like imminent collapse as consumers threatened to boycott diamonds altogether after growing bad publicity. But the process has lost momentum and credibility and needs to rejuvenate itself to remain relevant and to maintain the market for mined gem diamonds.

Almost all the global non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that originally participated in the Kimberley Process have pulled out. Many left in disgust after June 2010 when the process decreed that Zimbabwe could continue selling rough diamonds from its Marange fields, despite evidence that the army had violently expelled artisanal miners from the diggings to grab the diamonds themselves.

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