The Continuing Saga of Conflict Diamonds and the Kimberley Process

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Previously, I’ve written about conflict minerals in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and US efforts to curtail their sales (parts I and II), as well as the repercussions of companies doing indirect business in countries where direct business is forbidden by the US government. So, it only make sense that this article takes a look at how the Kimberley Process (KP) is doing 7 years later, using Zimbabwe, of all countries as the backdrop.

If you’re saying to yourself, I think American companies doing business in Zimbabwe is outlawed you are, for the most part correct. Therefore, the next logical question is, how are mines/diamonds in Zimbabwe sanctioned under the Kimberley Process as meeting appropriate guidelines? Well, the country and the process are not mutually exclusive and US government policy (which has always taken a harder line towards Zimbabwe than its Southern Africa neighbors) does not have anything to do with the process. Still, for all intents and purposes Zimbabwe is a dictatorship (sorry Morgan Tsvingarai) that has committed many human rights abuses (and engaged in disastrous financial mismanagement) over the years. Surely, that record should not jive with the Kimberley Process, which was instituted to certify that diamonds were not helping fuel conflict or human rights abuses.

At the heart of the issue is the Marange Diamond mines that are patrolled, based on most accounts, by the rather iron grip of President Mugabe’s crowd. In June of this year, the KP ban on the Marange mine was lifted, much to the dismay of just about everyone. However, at least one person agrees with the policy change. According to a recent article in National Jeweler, President and Chief Executive Officer Cecilia Gardner of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, “personally traveled to the southern African nation as part of the first KP review mission about a year ago. Though she was not part of the most recent review mission, she says reports from those on the ground detail diamond fields that are more peaceful and technologically advanced, employing local people in good, solid jobs that are helping to support their families.” Hmmm….I think I’m going to need to see some more data and I’m sure there was no warning ahead of time concerning their visit. She added, “the circumstances in Zimbabwe have changed dramatically in a year’s time, but that sense of perspective sometimes gets lost in the rush of 24/7 media.” As much as I agree that the media often attempts to control a variety of debates, based on Zimbabwe and Mugabe’s track record, I just don’t have the faith that she does.

Once again, similar to the discussion with conflict minerals (which are admittedly harder to document than diamonds), it’s really a question of what metrics are being established that make a diamond Kimberley certified and are they comprehensive and appropriate? After all, regardless of a year of improvements, it’s hard to imagine that Mugabe’s regime is okay with the transparency that the Kimberley Process supposedly requires. But then again who knows, he/his country could sure use some business.

Image Credit by swamibu via Flickr under a CC license

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