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CONFLICT DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER?

Major NGO Disappointment with Kimberley Process 'Clearer than Seals and the Fur Trade'

Representatives of 32 governments, along with industry and NGO representatives, met in London during the week of September 10 to continue discussions on a global certification scheme for rough diamonds. This was the eighth meeting in the 'Kimberley Process', which began 16 months earlier at the initiative of the Government of South Africa.

According to the final communique, the London meeting successfully reached agreement in principle on a wide range of contentious issues: the creation of an international data base on production and trade in rough diamonds; effective enforcement of the provisions of the certification scheme, including credible monitoring and oversight; industry self-regulation; information sharing, and a wide range of other issues long debated by those demanding an end to conflict diamonds.

'What was actually agreed at the London meeting, however, is slightly different,' says Ian Smillie, Research Coordinator for Partnership Africa Canada. 'There was general agreement on the need for re-export certificates, for independent international monitoring of national control mechanisms, and for an international data base. This seems like a step forward, but apart from "agreement in principle" on these topics and most others, there was lengthy debate about virtually every detail. In the end, there were actually more words, phrases and sentences left in brackets than before the meeting. In fact a lot of what was agreed in principle was agreed in principle more than a year ago, and was debated all over again in London.'

More than 180 NGOs in 40 countries, led by the London-based ActionAid, signed a petition in advance of the meeting saying that self-regulation of the proposed certification system would not be credible or acceptable. All references to external monitoring of national systems and the proposed industry chain of warranties, however, were either bracketed or removed from the negotiating text. 'Everyone in this process submitted their views, in writing, before the London meeting,' says Smillie. 'We then debated much of the proposed document in plenary, we broke into groups to consolidate the discussions, and then we went back into plenary where it was all opened up again. It is now proposed that we go through exactly the same process for the next meeting in Luanda at the end of October.'

Several key issues were not discussed at the meeting, including the authority under which a certification scheme would operate. In addition, the EU raised an unexpected obstacle on the last afternoon of the meeting, saying that national controls in and between EU member states would violate EU legislation on open borders. 'There are many government officials and industry representatives working in good faith at these meetings,' says Smillie, 'but for others, the Kimberley Process is a series of dry abstractions, to be addressed with no sense of urgency or compassion. They do not seem to appreciate that we are dealing with the lives of innocent people in Africa, and in so doing, we may actually save an industry that has been invaded by thieves, warlords and killers.

'I say may,' Smillie continued, 'because you have to remember that for those NGOs in search of an issue, diamonds are almost heaven-sent. Their connection to three brutal wars is clear. The industry, dominated by one big company, is not regulated in any meaningful way. It epitomizes the globalization problem that has so exercised young people on the streets of Seattle, Prague and Genoa. It is a much clearer issue than seals and the fur trade.'

The Kimberley Process was mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to develop a 'simple and workable' international certification system for rough diamonds, creating minimum standards for producing, exporting and importing states, including transparent measures for ensuring compliance. Two further meetings will be held before the participants in the process are expected to report back to the General Assembly in December.

Destabilizing Guinea: Report Connects Taylor, Cross Border Attacks and Diamonds

A new report, published in October by the Diamonds and Human Security Project, makes a direct link between murderous cross-border attacks into Guinea in 2000 and 2001 by Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front, and Liberian President Charles Taylor's expansionist economic ambitions. The report, entitled 'Destabilizing Guinea: Diamonds, Charles Taylor and the Potential for Wider Humanitarian Catastrophe' was written by Lansana Gberie, Project Research Associate, after two trips to Guinea earlier this year.

The report traces the development of Guinea's diamond industry from the first discoveries in the 1930s to the development of an export certification scheme earlier this year. It focuses, however, on the reasons behind the devastating RUF attacks into Guinea's forest region, which resulted in major loss of life and human dislocation, and serious damage to the region's infrastructure.

The author says that Guinea's conflict, like the apparently waning conflict in Sierra Leone, is largely over resources - a rapacious and mercenary campaign for wealth. Because of their small size and high value, diamonds figured prominently in RUF thinking, and that of their Liberian mentors. They had hoped for a repeat of what they had accomplished earlier in Sierra Leone. This reality has been largely overlooked by analysts because, unlike the case in Sierra Leone, diamonds have historically not been a major factor in either the Guinean economy or Guinean politics. Guinean diamonds, however, are real, and they are a significant magnet for others.

The report is available on the website of Partnership Africa Canada: http://www.partnershipafricacanada.org (click on resources and follow the links).
    
    
    

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 Today's Date: December 6, 2019
 On the Policy Front
 ·  Mbeki Should Reconsider Decision to Relocate African Parliament
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 ·  AU-EU Relations: Neocolonialism is 50 Years Old
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