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In search of pure diamonds

Nov 27 2012, 03:32 IST
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SummaryAlmost a decade ago, the consensus-based Kimberley Process certification scheme established minimum requirements for global rough diamond production and trade.

The Kimberley certification process needs to keep pace with world’s challenges

Gillian A Milovanovic

Almost a decade ago, the consensus-based Kimberley Process (KP) certification scheme established minimum requirements for global rough diamond production and trade. Today, to keep pace with a changing world, the KP’s 77 participant countries, observers from industry, and civil society must ensure the KP evolves with the global marketplace. Diamonds are an important part of India’s economy. Last year India exported almost $2 billion of rough diamonds, and $28 billion worth of cut and polished diamonds. India was one of the KP’s founding members and it was KP Chair in 2008.

The KP’s founders agreed unanimously that diamonds must stop funding rebel movements’ violence. Recognising that millions of people depend on diamonds for their livelihood, they also sought to keep demand for legitimate diamonds strong by preserving the gems’ reputation.

The KP set a benchmark--and a level playing field—for the diamond trade worldwide. No matter where rough diamonds are produced or traded, the KP certificate assures consumers they have not funded rebel groups’ abuses.

Though the KP has much to be proud of, a critical touchstone, its definition of a "conflict diamond", no longer meets today’s challenges. It does not adequately address rough diamonds linked to other types of conflicts.

Diamonds’ attractiveness depends on their association with purity. Other industries have suffered due to the loss of consumer confidence. There is concern that the association of some diamonds with violence risks infecting the entire diamond market with a negative image. Consumers want the assurance that their diamond is untainted by any kind of violence.

Now is the time for action. Consensus on a KP definition that addresses these concerns, preserves confidence, and forestalls the erosion of sales is the ideal outcome for all from producers through to consumers. Failing KP action, some countries or some elements of the diamond industry may move to independently address evolving consumer expectations.

Consultations with government, industry and civil society suggest KP reform should focus on these key elements:

* KP certificates must continue to ensure freedom from conflict; certification need not address human rights, financial transparency and development, which are better advanced through the exchange of best practices;

* KP certification should apply only to conflict/violence that is demonstrably related to rough diamonds and independently verified and not to isolated, individual incidents;

* KP safeguards should be implemented site-by-site, consistent with systems for other conflict minerals such

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