Wed.
Sep 22
2021

China needs to to do more to remove conflict diamonds from global trade, according to a Zimbabwe civil society leader Shamiso Mtisi.

The activist alleged that China opposition to revisiting definitions of conflict diamonds and approving digital certificates at most recent session of the Kimberley Process in Zimbabwe are impeding progress.

The Kimberley Process is the primary stronghold that facilitates changes in the industry. It started in May 2000 when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, to settle existing controversies to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

Three years later, there was an agreement by the United Nations, European Union, and the governments of 74 other countries, the World Diamond Council – representing the industry.

The primary goal was to introduce practical ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds and ensure that diamond purchases are not financing violence, primarily throughout developing nations of the global South.

The United Nations defines conflict diamonds as “…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”

The diamond industry has worked hard to reassure consumers that its stones aren’t linked to conflicts, insurgency and especially civil wars, such as those that occurred in nations like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola in the past.

Proposals to update the definition of conflict diamonds have been debated for years. The current wording allegedly limits the term to rough goods used by a rebel and various radical groups to finance conflict but excludes violence by existing legal authorities.

Mtisi also claimed that authorities in Angola were suppressing protests against the alleged “destruction of villages.” The Angolan government later denied the statement.

Digital data exchange is another crucial step that could increase the efficiency of export and import operations and speed up the statistics exchange between participants of the Kimberley Process.

Countries will identify officials whose electronic signatures will be valid for confirming a digital certificate’s legitimacy. And will exchange unique codes for guaranteeing that someone in authority has approved the document. Furthermore, an official would physically sign a paper certificate before the export can take place.

As the world’s second-largest market for diamonds and as its leading producer of synthetic diamonds, China plays a vital role in the direction of the Kimberley Process and the diamond industry as a whole. Given that the Kimberley Process works based on consensus between its 56 members, Chinese opposition is an obstacle to advancing the Kimberley Process towards the UN’s SDGs.

Numerous significant achievements of the Process have marked the past two decades. The introduction of the certification cut the flow of conflict diamonds to rebel groups and raised awareness among consumers. In effect, currently, almost 99 percent of diamonds in the marketplace are certified conflict-free. Current concerns seek greater transparency, accountability and commitment to ESG principles.

During the latest meeting of the Kimberly Process, Russia, the current chair, called for participants to endorse the advancement of digitalization of certificates and launch a pilot program to exchange information. Progress is slow among members due to conflicting national legislations, extensive security protocols, and technologies.

The surging demand for diamonds imposes additional questions about conflict-free certification and promoting the ESG agenda across the industry worldwide. In effect, China’s  leadership is needed to advance reforms and positive changes further.

By Dimitri Frolowsckii

Dimitri Frolowsckii is a political analyst and consultant.

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