The Canadian-based non-profit organisation IMPACT (formerly Partnership Africa Canada) has announced it is leaving the conflict diamond certification scheme known as the Kimberley Process.
The announcement came at the end of the Kimberley Process Plenary held in Brisbane from December 9-14, during which members were to discuss and adopt needed reforms. The scheme goes through a reform cycle every five years.
“Consumers are being sold something that is not real,” Joanne Lebert, IMPACT’s Executive Director told gathered Kimberley Process members.
“The Kimberley Process—and its Certificate—has lost its legitimacy. The internal controls that governments conform to do not provide the evidence of traceability and due diligence needed to ensure a clean, conflict-free, and legal diamond supply chain. Consumers have been given a false confidence about where their diamonds come from. This stops now,” said Lebert.
IMPACT had called for major reforms to bring legitimacy back to the scheme after civil society boycotted the 2016 Kimberley Process Chair—the United Arab Emirates—due to lax trading practices that have allowed conflict diamonds to enter the legitimate supply chain.
Along with members of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, IMPACT had called for an expanded conflict diamond definition. The definition currently in use limits “conflict diamonds” to only those used by rebel groups to finance their activities to overthrow governments, and remains silent on abuses perpetrated by governments themselves or private security firms.
Civil society also called for reforms to reinforce internal controls at national and regional levels to strengthen traceability and minimise illicit trade. Many cases have highlighted the weaknesses of internal controls, and IMPACT’s research in 2016 demonstrated how —despite an embargo—Central African Republic’s diamonds were entering the legitimate supply chain through Cameroon.
After extensive evaluation, the Kimberley Process did not make enough progress on any of the reforms.
“We have come to the conclusion that the Kimberley Process has lost its will to be an effective mechanism for responsible diamond governance,” said Lebert. “We have also noted a growing tolerance for personalized attacks against civil society members of the Kimberley Process and attempts to undermine the independence and credibility of Civil Society Coalition .”
The Kimberley Process was once celebrated as one of the first multi-stakeholder initiatives with collaboration between governments, industry, and civil society. But in recent years, these attacks against civil society members by other Kimberley Process participants have caused irreparable damage to the foundation of the tripartite initiative.
IMPACT will continue working with the Kimberley Process members who genuinely seek to end the trade of conflict and illicit diamonds, through traceability and due diligence, whether through the KP or other initiatives. The organization will collaborate with civil society members in diamond producing countries. In particular, IMPACT will work in continued solidarity with KP Civil Society Coalition members on the effective implementation of internal controls for diamonds and other conflict-prone minerals, as well as support countries to implement measures to end illicit trade.
IMPACT’s research into the conflict in Sierra Leone in 2000, was the first report to draw the link between diamonds and conflict financing, leading to international attention and action on conflict diamonds. In 2003, IMPACT was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for its work to end the trade of conflict diamonds.