The Kimberley Process (KP), aimed at stemming the trade of conflict diamonds, was definitely still alive and strong, KP chair, and South Africa's special representative to Africa's Great Lakes Countries Welile Nhlapo said on Thursday.
This year marked the KP’s tenth year of existence.
Speaking at the Building Regional and International Consensus workshop, hosted by the Southern African Liaison Office, in Pretoria, Nhlapo said he had read many “obituaries” of the KP in the media, but that “to understand the current debate about the process and whether it is making a significant impact, one has to understand how the process works and the challenges it faces”.
Nhlapo, the former South African ambassador to the US, pointed out that one of the most significant challenges faced by the KP was the variety in composition of its member countries.
"The KP community is highly heterogeneous, which leads to conflicts of interest as each participating country has different levels of development and institutional capacities.
"In addition, some of the countries belonging to the process are still emerging from conflict," he said.
Nhlapo reiterated that these factors had to be taken into account when debating whether the process was still relevant, adding that it was important to uphold the KP’s decision-making structures in dealing with the different opinions.
He added that the KP had been successful in maintaining cohesion among the different groups and coming up with decisions that would assist in promoting the diamond industry.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that a challenge relating to the definition of the KP had also emerged, stating that it was important to separate the process’ definition from its mandate.
"Some parties feel that there is a need to change the definition of the KP to include aspects such as human rights; however, one has to take into account how such a change in definition will impact on the process’s mandate and whether it has the capacity to deal effectively with such issues."
Nhlapo stated that the KP could not effectively deal with issues relating to human rights and that there were other institutions, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, that were better equipped to deal with these issues.
"While we cannot compete with such organisations, we can work with them to address the challenges identified through the KP," he said.
Further, Nhlapo mentioned that the Central African Republic (CAR) had been present at the KP meeting earlier this month and briefed the members on what was currently happening in that country.
“The CAR’s diamond trading has been suspended as a result of conflict. However, the country has agreed to a review mission, in which the team will have access to the mines and trading areas to check compliance with the KP.
“At our meeting in November, we will then be able to pronounce whether CAR can continue to trade diamonds,” he said.