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Looking for the Kimberley Process achieving further and meaningful sustainable progress

26 march 2018

stephane_fischler_xx.jpgOn March 7, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly welcomed the progress made by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to break links between the diamond trade and conflict and adopted a consensus resolution aimed at intensifying that work aligning it with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Stephane Fischler, Acting President of the World Diamond Council (WDC), the organization representing the diamond industry in the development and implementation of regulatory and voluntary systems to control the trade in diamonds embargoed by the United Nations or covered by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, gave this interview to Rough&Polished highlighting key points in the United Nations resolution.
The latest resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on diamond trade was adopted 17 years after its similar resolution of 2001. In what way is the diamond trade today different from what it was then?

The rough diamond trade patterns are not very different then and now, if you exclude the new productions that came on stream mainly from Canada starting at the end of the 90’s. For consumer markets, more noticeable changes took place. For instance, the significant growth of markets like China and East Asia.

The U.N. resolution praised the successful role of the Kimberley Process (KP) in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds and its valuable impact on the lives of most people dependent on the trade in diamonds. Meanwhile, speaking at the UN panel discussion you said the World Diamond Council (WDC), being the voice of industry, believes the organization is in need of reform. Why?

Let me be clear, it is not only the industry who believes the process needs to move forward and look at some necessary reforms, but this was decided by consensus by the members of the KP, 81 countries in total. Any process, as successful as it has been in fulfilling its mandate needs to look at the wealth of experience it has gathered over the years. The KP is 15 years old and within its very narrow mandate has been remarkably successful fulfilling its mission, which is to combat the use of illegally obtained proceeds from the sale of rough diamonds to buy arms and foster violence against governments.

We are now better aware of the need for a more pro-active approach to defuse instances of systematic violence in artisanal mining areas where the KP faces the highest risks. Another lesson from the last 15 years is that the KP standards and its minimum requirements need to be revisited in light off the above. Also, the implementation of these standards in the exporting and importing countries, controlled by our Peer Review system including review and expert missions, need to better and more evenly implemented.

What is the essence of the two-year review period in the Kimberley Process? What is it focused on?

In accordance with KPCS document, participants agreed to undertake every 5 years a review of the scheme. Only this time the ‘review’ might go further and become ‘a reform’.

This 3-year review cycle started last year under the Australian chairmanship and has successfully obtained a consensus for the creation of an ad-hoc working group on review and reform. It is this working group under the chairmanship of India, with Angola as co-chair, which has the responsibility of managing the process and bring it to a positive conclusion. The Review process itself usually focuses on three major areas:

• The impact of the KPCS on the trade in rough diamonds and the extent to which the scheme has been effective in fulfilling its mission of preventing illegally obtained rough diamonds proceeds to be diverted to fund conflict

• Whether the technical provisions of the KPCS are functioning properly or require improvement

• How efficient and effective its operations are.

To what extent is the meaning and scope of conflict diamonds to be expanded? What is projected to be included in this notion?

We believe the KP needs to keep a focus on the illegal financing of conflict in the high-risk areas of artisanal mining. However, the WDC believes more importance should be added on preventing these conflicts in the first place. This is a very difficult and ambitious reform. It involves in the first place the governments, local administrations and their mining communities in countries with deep development and governance challenges.

Since the KP was first created in 2000, its definition of a conflict diamond has remained unchanged, as has the purpose of the KP – to stop conflict diamonds from entering the global supply chain.  We have achieved that goal by virtually eliminating the trade in diamonds sold to fund rebel movements attempting to overthrow the state.  We will continue to meet that goal through constant vigilance. However, for 5 years now (Vicenza 2012) the WDC expressed support for broadening of the scope of the KP to increase the likelihood of safe and secure working conditions, fair labor practices and sustainable development in diamond communities. That is still our position today.

In your opening remarks at the U.N. panel discussion, you said it was an unfortunate truth that the nature of what constituted conflict had evolved. In what way and what does it mean for the Kimberley Process?

It means that we have been too often confronted with the consequences of conflicts and that we now understood better that we must collectively, government, industry, civil society look at ways to prevent them. Again, very ambitious. There are a multiple of factors that will need to be aligned to make this happen. One of the key aspects to avoid conflict is the strength of the mineral governance of the producing country and its commitment to local redistribution policies.

Practically the KP will have to agree on a set of “triggers” that will generate an intervention. Although this is key, it’s but very challenging to define, considering the required respect for state sovereignty.

Some industry analysts say the KP consensus principle appears to be a hindrance in adopting and implementing its decisions. What is your take on this problem?

It’s true, the WDC is but one voice in the KP tripartite. Both the industry (as represented by the WDC) and the Civil Society Coalition serve as official Observers of the process.  Neither group has voting or veto rights. To agree on changes to the KPCS a consensus is required from the participating governments (as the third member of the tripartite).  That is a challenge indeed, but on the other hand when consensus is achieved the agreement is carried by all. And as Robert Owen-Jones, the outgoing Australian chair remarked, consensus does not mean a 100% agreement. It means that no participant disagrees. 

At the UN panel discussion, you said the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme needs stronger minimum standards. Could you elaborate on this?

One of the most important points of the Reform according to the WDC is to review the current KPCS core document and standards. The goal of this review is strengthening the KPCS minimum standards by making the peer review mechanism stronger, making sure recommendations after the review visits are put into action, turning what are today recommendations into minimum requirements.

The new U.N. resolution says that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme will be credible only if all Participants have the requisite national legislation. What is the situation in this field? Do all such national legislations are in sync with the KPCS?

That is not what the resolution said. It said: Recognizing also that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which came into effect on 1 January 2003, will be credible only if all Participants have the requisite national legislation coupled with effective and credible internal systems of control etc…

The focus is here the link between legislation and enforcement. The legislation is not so much the issue, but whether it is enforced as it should be. Here the issue of governance, the will and capacity to enforce is critical. We can see the difference it can make when properly managed like in Yakutia and the very tough challenges and loss of opportunities it creates when it is not.

You also said you had a very open and fair exchange of ideas at the recent meeting with the Civil Society Coalition. Please share your impression of this meeting for the sake of our readers.

That is correct. Myself, and our executive director Marie-Chantal Kaninda, have had the chance to meet the CSC in Antwerp recently. Since PAC (now IMPACT) left the coalition we now have an almost exclusively African CSC. IPIS, which is not an advocacy NGO, but more a research center, is complementing the coalition. We had a very open and frank discussion on our individual vision of the ongoing review and reform process. I can say our views on multiple issues are close, the implementation process remains of course the critical factor where we will need to discuss further.

Do you think the experience earned by the Kimberley Process during all these years in stemming illicit trade may be transferred to other industries in some future?

Definitely so. But most of them seem very shy… As we said before, and will say it again, the KPCS is a continuous improvement process in need of more professionalism, as per our proposal for a permanent secretariat.

I truly believe the diamond industry deserves much more credit that it has so far received for having been so instrumental in impacting so critically the resolution of some of the worst conflicts in Africa of the late 20th century. Though there is always room to improve the efficiency of conflict resolution and decision making within the KP, we have seen important progress using our processes. Eradicating more than 99,8% of the world’s conflict diamonds we believe that the KP has been very successful to date. Together with the CSC and the members of the Kimberley Process we are looking for the KP achieving further and meaningful sustainable progress.

Vladimir Malakhov, Rough&Polished


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