JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Critics of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which aims to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, point to the incoming chairperson as a factor that could facilitate positive change in the management of the world’s diamond resources.
Claims surrounding the perceived lack of credibility of the KPCS have pointed to the yearly change of the Kimberley Process chairperson as a factor hampering the delivery of positive change.
In its ‘2009 Diamond and Human Security Annual Review’, nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) demonstrates how the KPCS is failing to deal with the gaping holes in the diamond supply chain. Along with NGO Global Witness, the PAC is calling for action to restore the tarnished credibility of the KPCS. Evidence gathered in the report points to the Kimberley Process as failing.
Concerns notwithstanding, there seems to be a new dawn for the Kimberley Process, as it heralds a new chairperson, Boaz Hirsch, who is a senior official in the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour, and who is determined to reform the Kimberley Process in 2010 and beyond.
PAC’s Nadim Kara tells Mining Weekly that he believes that, under the leadership of Israel, the KPCS will tackle more of its challenges.
“The Kimberley Process chair has been meeting extensively with stakeholders over the past few months to explore their thoughts on what the chairperson’s key priorities should be for 2010. His open, consultative approach is a great signal that he is committed to collaboration and partnership. He has also indicated that he would like to identify one or two very concrete improvements that can be made to the KPCS within the 12-month window of opportunity that Israel has.
“This emphasis on specific improvements is welcome as it increases the likelihood that some real improvements will take place this year. I think Israel will have a positive impact on the work of the Kimberley Process and leave a positive legacy behind,” he says.
Mining Weekly, in an exclusive interview with Hirsch, discussed the chair’s focus on developing a long-term vision for the Kimberley Process. While he aims to action this vision, he also wants to be realistic.
“ I only have one year as chairperson and I have to create a consensus that is time-intensive. We are focusing on three aims, in addition to the regular agenda that we have,” he says.
The Kimberley Process is relaunching dialogue between itself and another independent intergovernmental body, the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
The Kimberley Process is currently drafting a document that deals with the critical issue of enforcement, which Hirsch says he hopes to discuss in an intersessional meeting, in June. There are also plans for a seminar on enforcement closer to this meeting.
“It is not only about having seminars or workshops but having a long-term work plan that introduces and strengthens the issue of enforcement within the Kimberley Process,” he affirms.
Hirsch also aims to suggest a professional body that will not only provide support for the chairperson, but also serve as an institutional memory.
“This is important, as today we rely heavily on experience and the knowledge of the partici- pants, which is positive, but what happens if one retires or moves on to a new position? We want to develop a small professional team that will better run, manage and disseminate knowledge of the Kimberley Process,” says Hirsch.
Kara agrees that investing in permanent staff can provide some institutional memory for the KPCS, and that continuity will improve the quality of analysis done by the Kimberly Process and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the work of the chairperson.
The Kimberley Process also aims to establish a working group on certain issues dealing with trade issues. The committee will better facilitate issues and challenges of the trade that are of a more technical nature.
But what happens to such initiatives once a new chairperson is appointed in 2011?
SO IT BEGINS AGAIN?
Kara says that this is one of the main challenges of the Kimberley Process. “Every 12 months, a new country chairs the Kimberley Process. The competence of each chairperson has varied widely over the years, undermining the organisation’s credibility. Institutional memory is weak and a number of important follow-up activities are lost in transition yearly. Without core funds or permanent staff, there is little support for incoming chairpersons, even those with the best of intentions,” he explains.
Hirsch tells Mining Weekly that he hopes that such initiatives can be launched to go beyond the ‘point of no return’.
“I hope to get the participants in this organisation to recognise the importance of these critical initiatives and ensure that, when I exit as chairperson, I would have created both infrastructure and capacity footprints, which will be actioned into the future,” he says.
Kara says that the Kimberley Process is struggling with its core mandate, which is guaranteeing consumers that the organisation is aware of the origin of the diamonds that consumers buy.
Internal controls are weak or nonexistent in a multitude of countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, as has been pointed out by various review visits.
“The Kimberley Process needs to get serious about enforcement,” adds Kara.
He also says that the KPCS is challenged by the task of meeting consumer expectations with respect to human rights. “To many consumers, the Kimberley Process certificate constitutes a guarantee that no one has been harmed in the process of producing the diamonds they are buying. This is significant. Even if you accept the position of some Kimberley Process members that human rights are not technically within the scope or mandate of the organisation, the consuming public thinks that they are.
“If the public starts to think that the Kimberley Process certificate is no longer a guarantee that human rights are respected in the diamond industry, there is once again potential for a backlash that could damage the legitimate diamond industries of other countries,” he says.
TOO IMPORTANT TO FAIL?
Despite these challenges, Kara says that the Kimberley Process has the potential to be an incredibly powerful global governance regime. It is too important to fail and too important to coddle.
“It has shown the capacity to take action when possessed of strong leadership. While some governments actively engage with the issues and generate ideas for continuous improvement, others have been less interested in reform, preferring instead to maintain the status quo even when the evidence suggests that the status quo is not working.
“For the most part, industry actors, such as the World Diamond Council, [have have made public their progressive positions] on various issues. They have the potential to be a power- ful ally for ongoing improvements to the Kimberley Process and we continue to work with them towards that end,” Kara explains.
Hirsch says: “We cannot ignore the success of the Kimberley Process in substantially reducing the trade of blood diamonds. Has it been 100%? No. But will it be 100%? This is a sizeable and continuous task.
“Currently, the international community’s best solution is the Kimberley Process, and it is a fascinating process if you take its unique nature and composition that blend between human rights and trade. I think it is an effective process. We, as the main participants and the members, have to prepare how to continuously strengthen it,” adds Hirsch.
One challenge that appears to be a high priority is Zimbabwe’s diamond industry.
The ‘2009 Diamonds and Human Security Annual Review’ points to growing evidence of smuggling and the continued militarisation of diamond resources. “Our civil society partners have indicated that the militarisation of the diamond areas continues, with local villagers being forced to work the fields on behalf of soldiers and police,” Kara adds.
Several independent reports have confirmed that the government of Zimbabwe committed human rights abuses in the course of establishing government control over the Marange diamond fields.
The Kimberley Process has designated former CEO of South Africa’s State Diamond Trader Abbey Chikane as the Kimberley Process monitor under a joint network plan agreed with Zimbabwe to deal with the noncompliance with KPCS minimum requirements identified by a review mission.
Kara says that the appointment of a monitor is a positive sign in that it means Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process have found a way to continue the dialogue on the situation in Marange.
Hirsch says that such a step should not be undervalued. “This is a process that is valid and delicate, and we are using the best means available to us to achieve the important goal, which also includes not infringing on human rights.”
Zimbabwe has also committed to a joint work plan that identifies specific actions that need to be taken to demonstrate compliance with the expectations of the KPCS.
But Kara says that Zimbabwe has missed several deadlines, including an important commitment to work with the Kimberley Process Working Group on Monitoring to conduct a forensic audit on all diamond stockpiles that exist in different places around the country. “Zimbabwe needs to demonstrate good faith with the implementation of the joint work plan, including the demilitarisation of the diamond areas, and cooperate on the forensic audit process.”
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?
Despite these challenges, Hirsch says that he wants to increase the number of countries participating in the Kimberley Process, which will also help in reducing the incidents of human rights violations.
“Will that be tomorrow? No. But it will happen. If . . . our vision of strengthening enforcement and strengthening relationships with international bodies, such as the WCO, [materialises], we can move a few more steps in scaling down this process of trading in blood diamonds. But how do you improve the process? It is a continuous task and there are no immediate off-the-shelf answers,” he says.
Given Hirsch’s international trade experience, as well as being an economist with previous involvement with the World Trade Organisation, he appears to be confident in his role as the Kimberley Process chairperson and believes that he will achieve the “essence of trying to create or negotiate a meeting of minds that will bring everyone around the table to some kind of agreement”.