The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)

The KPCs was crafted to address the role of diamonds in fuelling violent conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone. Subsequently, it has targeted diamonds from other civil wars such as Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and the DRC. As a regime of restraint, its fortunes have hinged primarily on the question of “blood” diamonds and the evolution of civil conflicts." name="_ftnref1" title="">[1] As civil wars have declined, the KP has faced considerable problems of relevance and credibility, forcing debates on how to broaden it beyond conflict diamonds. Like the EITI, the future of the KP depends on redefining it in the direction of a global public goods regime with emphasis on participation, accountability, and transparency.

NGO campaigns against conflict diamonds led to an agreement in May 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa, among representatives of the diamond industry, governments, and NGOs to set up a “system of regulations and safeguards to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds.”  The KP was eventually launched in January 2003, covering 75 countries and representing 99 per cent of all producers of rough diamonds worldwide.  Despite the flaws in the certification of “conflict free” diamonds and non-compliance by some of the actors, the KP has played a critical role in reducing conflict in most of the diamond-producing countries by undercutting the ability of armed groups to use the trade in diamonds to finance their activities." name="_ftnref2" title="">[2]  In 2013, the KP reported that diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire are the only ones that are still technically “conflict diamonds.” They, however, are less than one per cent of global trade. With the resurgence of civil conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), diamonds from that country have met the criteria of blood diamonds." name="_ftnref3" title="">[3]

With the decline of civil conflicts, the KP has confronted questions of redefining conflict and blood diamonds, questions that have been highlighted in the divisive debates around the Marange diamonds in Eastern Zimbabwe.  Western NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Global Witness, led a spirited campaign to brand Marange diamonds as blood gems because of the military’s use of forced labour, human rights abuses, and brutal killings.  But African members of the KPCS, supported by powerful international actors, rejected this designation, permitting Zimbabwe to resume exports of Marange diamonds; by August 2011, Zimbabwe had entered the top 10 league of the world’s diamond-producing countries.  In May 2011, Global Witness, one of the founders of the KP, withdrew from the process, citing the decision on Marange diamonds." name="_ftnref4" title="">[4]

Marange diamonds ignited debates about the need to broaden the mandate over the KP to address wider governance challenges.  In June 2012, the then chairperson of the KPCS, Gillian Milovanovic, stated the need to redefine conflict diamonds.  But definitional disagreements have persisted largely because there is no consensus on how to broaden the regime that was crafted essentially around conflict diamonds.  These disagreements were highlighted by the 2013 Chair of the KP, Welile Nlapo at the November Johannesburg KP Plenary meeting:

The inter-sessional meeting of the KP in June [2013] tasked the Chair with the responsibility of examining the vexed matter of the definition.  As you would no doubt imagine, this has not been an easy task as there are many competing interests. Consultations on this matter will continue, but we must remember that at the end of the day, if we are able to move forward on the matter of the definition, the solution lies with agreement among all of you as members of the KP. To do this, we must work together to find solutions. Maintaining hardened positions without any willingness to compromise and find mutually beneficial solutions will not help. When dealing with the definition, we have to recognize the role and limitations of the KP, otherwise we will be taking on much more than we are mandated to bear.  To keep the KP relevant and effective, we should focus on implementation of our existing mandate, such as following up on outcomes of review visits, and assistance we can provide to allow countries to improve their compliance capabilities. The KP was created for a specific purpose to address the trade in conflict diamonds. It was not created to end conflict, or to end human rights abuses or to take redistributive action against sovereign states. Other mechanisms exist in the international system for addressing these challenges." name="_ftnref5" title="">[5]    

The Johannesburg meeting failed to come up with a broad definition. Civil society representative, Shamiso Mtisi, noted that it was necessary to come up with a new definition of conflict diamonds “to capture the abuses that are on-going in communities; these are abuses committed by state entities, by the police, the military, and also private security guards.”" name="_ftnref6" title="">[6] One approach out of the impasse would be to expand the definition of the KPCS to fundamental questions of participation, accountability, and transparency. Thus diamond-producing states that do not meet these criteria would fail the certification benchmarks. Such broadening would capture more actors and objectives and may constitute the first step toward universalization of the regime. In the absence of redefining the regime, it may be necessary to close it altogether and declare victory.

" name="_ftn1" title="">[1] A. Grant and Ian Taylor, “Global Governance and Conflict Diamonds: The Kimberley Process and the Quest for Clean Gems,” The Round Table, vol. 93,  2004, no.375,  pp. 385-401; Carol Kantz, “The Power of Socialization: Engaging the Diamond Industry in the Kimberley Process,” Business and Politics, vol. 9, no, 3. 2007, pp. 1-20; J.L. Fisherman, “Is Diamond Smuggling Forever? The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, The First Step Down the Long Road in Trying to Resolve the Diamond Trade Problem,” University of Miami Business Law Review, vol. 13, 2005.

" name="_ftn2" title="">[2] J. Burbank, The Effect of Kimberley Process on Governance, Corruption, and Internal Conflict. Washington DC: The Fund for Peace, 2102; F. Bieri, From Blood Diamonds to the Kimberley Process: How NGOs Cleaned Up the Global Industry. London: Ashgate Publishers, 2010.

" name="_ftn3" title="">[3] See the proceedings at the KP Plenary in Johannesburg, November 2013.

" name="_ftn4" title="">[4] “Global Witness Quits Blood Diamond Scheme,” Deutsche-Welle, May 5, 2011


" name="_ftn5" title="">[5] “Statement by the Chair of the Kimberley Process, Ambassador Welile Nlapho for the Opening of the KP Plenary—November 19, 2013”

" name="_ftn6" title="">[6] “Blood diamonds: Kimberley Process Meeting Fails to Redefine ‘blood diamonds’,” Duetsche-Welle, November 23, 2013.