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Diamond industry's reaction to KP impasse

19 july 2021

The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (CSC) recently said that it is planning to approach the United Nations (UN) over the impasse on the redefinition of conflict diamonds and the principles of responsible sourcing.

The CSC representative Shamiso Mtisi said it is time the UN directly intervenes in this important matter and prescribes to the KP what to do.

He said in approaching the UN, they will draw its attention to hotspot areas where diamond mining companies, state actors and private security and trading states are allegedly violating human rights for profit.

Mtisi claimed that despite efforts by Russia (together with Botswana on the principles) to put the redefinition of conflict diamonds and the principles of responsible sourcing on the agenda of their recent meeting, there was resistance with participants invoking procedural concerns to block the discussions.

He alleged that this was making the KP guilty by inaction, since without an update to the definition, and promoting responsible sourcing standards, the KP continues to falsely certify diamonds affected by widespread or systematic violence as conflict-free.

Rough & Polished's Mathew Nyaungwa contacted some players in the diamond industry to get their comments on this gridlock. Below is his question and the responses he received from Botswana Diamonds' managing director James Campbell, De Beers' spokesperson David Johnson; and independent industry analyst Paul Zimnisky:

The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition recently indicated that is planning to approach the United Nations over an impasse on the redefinition of conflict diamonds and the principles of responsible sourcing. What is your opinion on these two sticking issues?

Botswana Diamonds managing director James Campbell

james_campbell_excl_xx.jpgI have always been a little cynical about the KP due to its lack of 'teeth' and 'woolly' definition of what is a conflict diamond and what is not so I support any move to tighten these two aspects. Not only is this the correct moral and ethical route, but also something which the consumer would want particularly with the more socially-minded generation.

This view is also in alignment with the increasing and important focus on ESG matters in mining which can be encapsulated in the term 'social license' to operate.

So where we have clear guidelines on ESG in the Equator Principles and other similar tools, we need the KP to step up and do the same for diamonds, which after all represent our deepest and most pure emotions.

De Beers spokesperson David Johnson

david_johnson_xx.jpgWhile the KP has been successful at achieving the specific aims it set out to do about addressing the risk of conflict diamonds entering the value chain, we are fully supportive of the desire to expand the KP definition to include reference to human rights and responsible sourcing practices more broadly.

The diamond industry has already established a variety of programmes that are open to all businesses in the diamond sector (such as the RJC's Code of Practice and WDC System of Warranties), as well as those created by individual businesses (such as our BPPs).

These are leading and highly effective measures to support responsible business practices and underpin consumer confidence in diamonds.

However, establishing a broader KP definition to help create a level playing field for all diamonds would benefit the sector more widely and help ensure responsible business practices are enshrined and assured across all parts of the industry.

We are also supportive of the principles of responsible sourcing that were put forward by the KP Chair and Vice-Chair.

There has been great progress across the sector in establishing principles, standards and assurance of responsible business, and we believe it is important that such progress is widely recognised, for the benefit of all the responsible businesses in the diamond sector and all the countries that depend on diamond revenues for socioeconomic development.

Diamond industry analyst Paul Zimnisky

paul_zimnisky_2021_xx.pngI think the current situation highlights how difficult coalitions can be, especially one that includes 82 nations. However, I think it is important that these discussions continue to happen as I think most participants have a common goal of improving industry conditions.

But, the larger and the broader the scale of the mandate, the more complicated executing the mission of a coalition becomes, which is what I think we are seeing here.

As with supply chain transparency and diamond provenance initiatives in general, in a perfect world consumers would ultimately get to choose where and who they buy their diamonds from, which would hopefully reward those practising proper practices with higher prices, thereby creating a positive reinforcing mechanism.

World Diamond Council president Edward Asscher

edward_asscher_xx.pngTogether with the Civil Society Coalition and several KP Participant governments, we have actively advocated for years for the expansion of the scope of the conflict diamonds definition, so that it includes rough diamonds directly associated with human rights violations beyond the narrower confines of civil war, and we will continue to do so.

Regarding responsible diamond sourcing, we strongly support the seven principles outlined in the joint proposal put forward by the Russian KP Chair and Botswana Vice-Chair. From the WDC’s perspective, it is the way forward to grow consumer’s confidence.

As I stressed during the recent KP Intersessional meeting, the world is changing and we all cannot afford to be left behind. Increasingly, from the consumer’s perspective a product’s ethical integrity is no longer an aspirational goal, but an integral part of its value proposition. Thus, the KP has a key role to play in ensuring the diamond’s continuing economic viability. We fervently hope that, through discussion and leadership, we will achieve consensus on these critically important topics.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished