Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition

Civil society opening statement at the 2023 Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Kimberley Process (KP) certification scheme. There is, however, little reason for celebration as trust among participants is at an all-time low. 

Although the narrow definition of conflict diamonds allows this industry to sell diamonds as conflict free, it blinds consumers to human rights violations occurring when this token of love and prosperity is mined. We welcome the new chair of WDC who has advocated for higher standards in the diamond industry, and we encourage WDC to set the bar high for a new conflict diamond definition.

The long overdue expansion of the KP’s conflict diamond definition should include diamonds associated with widespread or systematic violence and serious violations of human rights, regardless of whether they are committed by rebel groups, criminals, terrorists, private or public security forces or any governmental actor.

Communities affected by diamond mining know very well that conflict is a lot more than just rebels fighting legitimate governments. When things go wrong, it is communities that face violence and human rights violations. The KP should be there for them as well. The diamond sector faces many challenges in living up to its full potential as a driver of peace and of development. These include issues of human rights, labour rights, environmental impact, fair distribution of benefits, corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing, and so on. We urge the KP to help the diamond sector to live up to its potential and adopt an ambitious definition that addresses real needs and real-life challenges of communities affected by diamond mining. 

We commend Zimbabwe for having started the process of promoting responsible mining through the recently launched Responsible Mining Audit which covers other mining sectors and the diamond sector. We recommend that Zimbabwe includes CSOs and communities or other stakeholders to make the process inclusive. We encourage the KP to consider this as a model for testing the implementation of Frame 7 Principles on Responsible Sourcing.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

With its narrow mandate, the KP accepts only one case where it wants to stop conflict diamonds from entering its certified chain, namely in the Central African Republic. However, we again have to question whether it is doing this one job well enough. Particularly in light of reports of continued smuggling and of a company linked to Russia’s Wagner mercenaries that managed to export diamonds from CAR, with KP certificates, to Dubai and Antwerp. As diamonds continue to slip through the KP’s defect net, the people of the Central African Republic, and particularly those living in or close to mining areas, continue to suffer from insecurity, deprivation, violence, torture, indiscriminate killings and many more unimaginable harms. We are looking forward to hearing the report of the UN Panel of Experts on the security situation in the country. The KP needs to find a solution that balances community interests, national economic development and protecting the local communities in CAR.  

If the KP really is the conflict prevention mechanism it claims to be, then it should at minimum have a vision to end this suffering, rather than just trying to avoid that it negatively impacts consumer trust. 

We repeat again how the failure by the KP Certification Scheme to discuss today’s conflicts and violence erodes the credibility of the certification. This includes the aggression of one KP participant by another to which the lucrative diamond trade contributes.

As we speak, the G7 countries are discussing a common diamond traceability framework to drain this conflict financing. 

We have regularly used this forum to call for scaling up efforts towards improved diamond traceability. The Kimberley Process tends to work against this rather than support it. In the first place, through its system of mixed origin certificates that has no requirements, not even recommendations, to keep trace of the country of mining origin throughout the many transactions of diamonds on their way from mine to market. 

Another obstacle to traceability the KP poses is its still dominant narrative that this scheme has solved all our problems. This narrative has so often been used to argue that this sector does not need to join the global cross-industry efforts to inform consumers on where their products are from. Luckily this is starting to change. It is painfully telling of the KP’s relevance today that it is part of the problem rather than the solution to this biggest paradigm shift in the diamond industry of the past 20 years. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

In light of the mistrust and standstill that dominates this forum, we more than ever need a fresh look at what we are doing here. We need an independent evaluation of what the KP does and does not do, what it does well, what it can do better and where it is completely failing. We need to better understand who is and should be benefiting from all the time and resources put into this. Is it diamond producers or consumers, affected communities or industry, citizens or governments? 

The KP needs to put people first, it has the leverage to do that, and it would make diamonds shine brighter. Here in Zimbabwe, 15 years ago families were displaced from their ancestral homeland in Marange to a government farm called Arda Transau. The promises that were made for piped water, electricity, land for cultivation, good schools and accommodation for teachers were never lived up to. Today the displaced families are drinking water from an unprotected well. The houses they live in are life threatening due to wide cracks that have developed. The families have no alternative livelihoods. The KP Civil Society Coalition (CSC) is deeply concerned with the living conditions of the displaced families and with the lack of development in Marange itself.

In Sierra Leone, thousands of people were involuntary displaced when the diamond mining started in Koidu in 2005. In 2007 and 2009 security forces shot at harmless and peaceful demonstrators, leading to several deaths and many injuries. Nobody has been held accountable for these crimes. Many people are still to be resettled to a place where blastings don’t destroy their homes, mining does not deplete their sources of drinking water, and where they have prospect to alternative livelihoods. Today, a dangerous and unsightly artificial tailings mountain has been created, overshadowing Koidu city. We call on the KP to urge the government of Sierra Leone to look into the grievances and conditions of the affected community – the displaced, those killed, those injured and those still suffering because of diamond mining in Koidu. 

In the past 2 years, at least three tailing dams of industrial diamond mines broke: the Catoca mine in Angola, the Jagersfontein mine in South Africa and the Williamson mine in Tanzania. This caused death, destruction and devastation for communities adjacent to these mines or the waterways that were severely polluted. These disasters did not have to happen and could have been prevented through better control and management. For that purpose, this industry needs to shift its focus from quick gains to make shareholders happy to sustainable value creation for countries and communities. 

The lack of effort to mitigate the human and environmental toll of the Catoca mine disaster continues to concern us. Despite reports by several experts and the Congolese Government documenting the causes and consequences of the pollution, little has been done to address these. It is the fourth time we have raised attention in our opening statement to this forum, but the KP remains silent, once again showing the world its limitations in addressing and dealing with the current challenges related to diamond exploitation.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Let us mark this anniversary meeting by critically assessing where the KP fails to work for the people and by committing to make them benefit. It is time for external scrutiny through a thorough external evaluation of the work so far. If the KP is not to become irrelevant it has to act now and assume responsibility for the impacts – both positive and negative- that diamond mining can have, not only on diamond mining communities but on society as a whole. Communities and consumers need to finally get clarity on what can be expected from this scheme. 

Dr. Michel YOBOUE

For the Civil Society Coalition

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