On the eve of a major international meeting on halting the global traffic in "blood
diamonds," human rights and Africa activists are calling on the world's diamond
traders to strengthen proposals to monitor the trade.
In a report issued Monday, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) charged that the so-called "Kimberley Process" for certifying rough diamonds remains inadequate and called for negotiators to include provisions for regular independent monitoring of government agencies involved in the trade.
At the same time, activist groups Global Witness and Amnesty International called on the World Diamond Congress (WDC), which is meeting in London this week, to accept a system of independent monitoring of its own procedures to ensure that blood diamonds, also called "conflict diamonds," are not traded across borders.
"Twenty percent of the diamonds sold worldwide are illicitly traded," said Alex Yearsley of Global Witness, an international organization working to expose the link between the exploitation of natural resources and human rights abuses. "Some of these diamonds are used to buy weapons for rebel groups in Africa. And yet diamond traders have failed to act."
The push to ban conflict diamonds from global trade began three years ago after Global Witness documented how the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group was using its control over Sierra Leone's diamond fields to sustain its brutal war against the government and the civilian population.
Backed by neighboring Liberia and Burkina Faso, which also profited from its diamond operations, RUF became notorious around the world for its trademark terror tactic of cutting off the limbs of its victims, including small children.
Control by various armed groups over diamond fields in Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were found by independent UN investigators to sustain wars in those two countries. Just last week, a report by a UN panel of experts on the DRC found systemic and massive corruption in the diamond industry there, especially by foreign militaries that had intervened in the civil conflict and were financing their presence by mining and selling diamonds.
The diamond trade has also been used to launder money by rebel armies and even terrorist groups, according to published reports.
Worried that the reports of brutality and bloodshed would taint diamonds in the minds of consumers in industrialized countries and potentially spur a boycott, diamond companies and producer nations, notably in southern Africa, decided to take action to isolate conflict diamonds from the legitimate trade.
The result was the so-called Kimberley Process, named after the South African city where major companies and the most important importing and exporting nations met in May, 2000, to take up proposals to ban blood diamonds from global commerce.
After two years of negotiations, delegates finally agreed on a certification system for rough diamonds whereby individual diamonds are to be packaged and certified at their point of origin by national diamond-control agencies and are to remain in that package as they make their way through trade channels. The entire agreement, however, is voluntary.
The Kimberley Process is to be ratified by more than 40 importing and exporting countries when they meet November 5 in Interlaken, Switzerland. The WDC is meeting this week in order to draw up an industry position in advance of the Interlaken talks.
CAP, Global Witness, and Amnesty, however, are calling on the industry to accept tougher monitoring provisions without which, according to CAP, "the Kimberley Process will create a false sense of security, allowing conflict diamonds to continue entering the system, ultimately placing the entire diamond industry at risk." In a report published earlier this year, the U.S. Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) reached a similar conclusion about the consequences of a voluntary system.
In its new report, 'The Kimberley Process: The Case for Proper Monitoring,' CAP called for a system of routine review missions to be carried out at least once every two years on each participating country, including on-site visits conducted by teams that would include industry representatives as well as independent and law enforcement experts to ensure that minimum compliance was taking place. It also called for a system of challenge review missions to resolve specific questions concerning possible non-compliance.
The same report, which includes an analysis of other recent international trade-related agreements with anti-terrorist provisions, particularly those reached after the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, found that the Kimberley Process provisions for monitoring and verification were much weaker.
"In comparing the Kimberley monitoring provisions with those of other agreements concerned with human security it would appear that there are two standards," according to the CAP report. "Where the security of industrialized nations is concerned, tough, unequivocal agreements can be promulgated quickly, with clear and detailed provisions for compliance and third party monitoring. Where African diamonds and African lives are concerned, however, the issue is treated as an abstract trade matter."
Global Witness and Amnesty called Friday for the WDC to immediately publish all details of its own proposals for self-regulation and develop a system of penalties to be imposed against companies and governments that continue to trade outside the Kimberley Process.
© 2002 OneWorld.net