Conflict Diamond Regulator Kimberely Process May Lose Consumer Confidence
6/26/2011 4:29:26 AM Shira
Conflict diamond regulatory group The Kimberly Process—created by the United Nations to monitor conflict diamonds, and governed by diamond trading nations—is permitting Zimbabwe to export diamonds from its Marange mines, despite documented human rights abuses associated with the mine.
The landmark decision threatens the credibility of the regulatory group with critics saying it will end consumer confidence in conflict-free diamond products. The United States, Canada, and the European Union have protested the decision. Because the United States is the biggest consumer of diamonds in the world, its responses to Kimberely Process decisions are said to hold a lot of weight.
The Kimberley Process suspended sales of Marange diamonds in 2009. Zimbabwe had been investigated for permitting the military to control the Marange diamond field. President Robert Mugabe controls the area that is said to deploy forced labor.
“We are advising the Canadian diamond industry against trade in Marange diamonds… All diamond-producing countries stand to lose if the Kimberley Process is rendered ineffective,” said John Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada.
Kimberley Process Chairman Mathieu Yamba has stated that Zimbabwe would be permitted to export diamonds from its Marange mine with some minimal human rights oversight in place.
"We want to be treated like any other country. I'm going to sell our diamonds now," said Obert Mpofu, the Zimbabwe Mines Minister.
The decision has divided human rights groups, diamond industry insiders, and foreign governments. Critics of the decision, mainly the U.S. and Canada, claim that the Kimberely Process covers all human rights abuses, whereas those who support lifting the band, mainly China and India, claim that diamond mining in Zimbabwe is not fueling conflict. Chinese firm Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group Co. (also known as Anjin) has already accumulated more than one million carats for export from Marange and is planning to export the cache once it receives official Kimberley Process approval.
The Kimberely Process has succeeded in boosting the development of unstable countries and increasing the revenues of poor governments, such as that of Sierra Leone. Some critics say that the Kimberley Process has not been effective in from its onset and that conflict diamond abuses are still going on in Africa.