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Founding party Global Witness leaves Kimberley Process

Campaign group Global Witness has announced that it has left the Kimberley Process (KP), leading to a surge in UK jewellers seeking more assurances from their dealers on the provenance of the goods being imported.

Global Witness, which campaigns against natural-resource related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses and which states on its website that its campaigning “led to the creation of the precedent-setting Kimberley Process Certification Scheme”, earlier this week announced that it has removed itself from the international certification scheme established to stop the trade in blood diamonds.

In a statement, the Group attributed its decision to the KP being “outdated” and cited its “refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny”.

Speaking about the move away from the KP, Charmian Gooch, a founding director of Global Witness said: “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.

“The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”

The Group expressed shock at the recent authorisation by the KP of exports from two companies operating in the controversial Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe.

Gooch added: “Over the last decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters. Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election there is a very high risk of Zanu PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage.

“Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and industry should not supply them. All existing contracts in the Marange fields should be cancelled and retendered with terms of reference which reflect international best practice on revenue sharing, transparency, oversight by and protection of the affected communities.”

The Group said that the diamond industry should be required to demonstrate that the diamonds it sells are not fuelling abuses by complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure.

UK jewellers from both the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) and the British Jeweller’s Association (BJA) expressed concern when the decision was made in November by the KP to allow exports of diamonds from certain mines in Zimbabwe. However, the specialist Ethics Committee formed in March 2011 by the NAG and BJA, maintains that the UK jewellery industry will continue to seek resolutions from The World Diamond Council on the KP and in the meantime recommends that jewellers and retailers remain cautious about the origin of their diamonds.

In reaction to the departure from the KP by Global Witness, The World Diamond Council issued a statement saying that it regrets the move by Global Witness, and called for the organisation’s leadership to reconsider its position.

The statement read: “The World Diamond Council has always felt that progress in the campaign to end the trade in conflict diamonds will come through dialogue and engagement, and in this respect feels that the decision by Global Witness to walk away from the table will be counterproductive.

“Global Witness’ withdrawal from the Kimberley Process is regrettable, particularly given the important progress that has been made in addressing the concerns they raise”.

The statement goes on to counter the arguments made against the KP by Global Witness detailing the progress that has been made and saying that the KP “does have teeth”.

The World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff said: “The overriding goal of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has been to protect the integrity of the diamond, so that it properly contributes to bettering the lives of ordinary people living in the areas in which it is mined and processed. The system is not perfect, and is in need of constant review. However, you cannot contribute to the process if you are no longer engaged.”

Click here to read a statement by Global Witness founding director Charmain Gooch.

Readers' comments (2)

  • If you’re looking for eco-friendly jewelry, check out http://bynataliefrigo.com She designed our wedding rings and uses only recycled metals and conflict free gems.

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  • Global Witness took credit for creating Kimberley and writing the Kimberley Process Technical Documentation. It was supposed to rid Africa of criminals connected to diamonds, an incredibly naive and misguided approach. Kimberley, as with the new Dodd-Frank approach to minerals in the Congo, targeted the symptom (one of many revenue sources for the militia), instead of the cause - the militia themselves.

    Even if it would have been successful at keeping criminals from selling diamonds, which it was not, the criminals would have just moved on to gold, tantalum, tungsten and tin. So to solve that, let's just create an onerous and unworkable process for those minerals as well called Dodd-Frank. And who will this hurt? Only the innocent, law-abiding miner. The criminals will just keep on like they do in the diamond trade.

    Criminals in the Congo also own restaurants - should we put together a verification process to make it harder for law-abiding restaurant owners to do business as well? They also steal agricultural goods. Should we make it harder for law-abiding farmers to do business as well?

    Here's a radical thought. Go after the cause - the militia. The UN has stood by for 15+ years and watched people get robbed, raped and killed in the Congo. They have even participated in the smuggling. We need to grow a backbone and go after the cause and root them out. Australia doesn't need a Dodd-Frank Act because they don't have militia going after the minerals. And if they did, it would only make it harder for law-abiding people to do business.

    The lesson of Kimberley? Demonize criminals, not minerals. Go after the cause, not a symptom. Global Witness would never support this because they wouldn't be able to use it as a fundraising message. They would rather elongate the problem forever by going after they symptom. They raised a lot of money demanding a Kimberley process and then raised a lot more railing against it for ten years. Now they can raise money for another ten years demanding a replacement for the process they created, so they can rail against that one, too.

    It makes for great fundraising, but meanwhile untold thousands are hurt by going after the symptom instead of the cause. Kimberley was bad enough. Dodd-Frank, which demonizes at least four minerals throughout central Africa and involves 100,000 companies, will be a hundred times as damaging to the innocent tribes who mine these minerals in the Congo. Even before it is implemented a de facto embargo of central Africa has devastated the entire region.

    Here we go again.

    Dodd-Frank should keep Global Witness and Enough Project employed for decades before they declare it dead, too. Then they can raise money dancing on its grave. It's a win-win for them. But what about the people dying in the Congo because of it? That's not their problem - they have bills to pay.

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