August 17, 2011

When is 'Conflict-free' really conflict-free? When the Kimberley Process (KP) [ ] was launched in 2003 with the backing of the UN there was a feeling that something was finally being done to address the atrocities committed in connection with the diamond trade and that through the efforts of this tripartite system blood diamonds would soon disappear from global markets.<br/> Nevertheless, last week the BBC’s Panorama [] uncovered the existence of torture camps in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond field and the subsequent surfacing of diamonds from there on international markets.<br/> Of equal concern is the European Union’s push to legitimise trade of Zimbabwean diamonds under the KP despite questionable connections to the Mugabe regime and reports of police and military action against miners over recent years []. Similarly, the KP has come under criticism for failing to prevent to trade of conflict diamonds from countries like Côte d’Ivoire and Venezuela []. These developments beckon the question: What is going wrong? Is there any guarantee that diamonds on the market now have been sourced ethically? Dealers appear to believe not [].<br/> It has certainly become evident that the KP lacks the capacity to investigate complaints or performances in individual cases and a widely held view is that the process was never designed to prevent human rights abuses in connection with the diamond trade in the first place []. In addition, the makeup of member States to the KP with strong interests in the diamond trade and the requirement for consensus decision-making will unlikely bring about any rapid change to KP standards or enforcement.<br/> <br/> So what can players in the industry do? After all, films such as ‘Blood Diamond’ and associated campaigns have made consumers conscious of the issue and there is a growing demand for ethical stones. Industry commentators [] argue that one of the best approaches is to join an industry-wide standard and initiative providing ethical certification such as the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) []. The RJC looks to certify supply chains in the gold and diamond industry – from mining to trade – in the areas of business ethics, human rights and social responsibility, environment and management systems. Those who would point out that the RJC itself relies on the KP as part of its certification scheme will be interested to learn that the body is currently developing its own Chain of Custody certification which should be launched in 2012 []. This would be a valuable addition to securing conflict-free diamonds and hopefully be a more effective vehicle for consumers and traders to know that their purchase really is conflict-free.<br/>


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