International nonprofit organisation Global Witness (GW) has welcomed the World Diamond Council’s (WDC’s) response to the government-led Kimberley Process (KP) certification scheme, but says more needs to be done.
The organisation pointed out in a release that the WDC had, in recent weeks, issued statements that acknowledge serious human rights concerns in the diamond mining sector, while it indicated a shift towards greater transparency in what has been a “notoriously opaque” industry.
GW said the KP had failed to break the links between diamonds and human rights abuses and agreed with the WDC in its highlighting of the critical need for industry to take steps towards responsible diamond sourcing.
It further stated that it remains to be seen whether the WDC’s statements are empty words intended to burnish the sector’s tarnished image, or if they represent a genuine shift towards recognition that the diamond industry must embrace transparent and responsible business conduct.
GW said it was particularly notable that in the recent WDC statements the council has committed to leading transparency and business conduct from within its ranks.
The organisation stated that the WDC had indicated that “while it awaits action from the KP, the WDC is already conducting reforms of its own, to enable, at the industry-level, the type of progress it is advocating in the KP”.
GW noted that this suggested that the industry is coming to realise that burying its head in the sand, or indeed hiding behind the KP, is not a solution. Of course the WDC can exert pressure on governments to effect KP reform, but GW said the council needed to focus on getting its own house in order, “because KP reform or no reform, the international responsible sourcing conversation has moved on to a focus on company responsibility that is not going away.”
“Calls to reform the beleaguered KP are nothing new. Consumers buying diamonds with a KP certificate who believe the scheme provides assurance their diamond has not funded human rights abuses are labouring under illusions.
“Civil society organisations have made overtures to reform the certification scheme for almost a decade now, showing that it is simply not up to the job. It was pretty revealing that the diamond industry itself has finally taken up the same message,” said GW.
GW added that, although it was good to see the WDC recognising the weaknesses of the KP, both historical and more contemporary developments strongly suggest that the diamond industry’s energy would be much better spent on reforming its own behaviour.
“While the KP has stumbled on over the years, those of us concerned with genuinely changing the way that diamond supply chains operate in practice have turned our attention in the direction of the companies themselves, in line with international norms detailing their responsibility to act. Signs they are beginning to sit up and take notice are encouraging, if only a first step.”
The WDC, meanwhile, commented to Mining Weekly Online that, since it joined the KP at its inception 19 years ago, the council has remained committed to the tripartite coalition of government, civil society and industry, as the most effective instrument for eradicating the trade in diamonds associated with conflict in mining areas.
“We recognise the strides that were made after the launch of the KP Certification Scheme in 2003, just as we have been openly critical about the inability, to date, of the KP to address cases of grave and systemic abuse in some countries, which do not occur within the context of civil conflict.
“It is for this reason that we have long lobbied, together with the civil society alliance within the KP, to reform the process and to expand its scope.”
The WDC added that, as it continues to advocate for change within the KP, it is also independently addressing those challenges that the KP has not yet taken up, such as through its revised System of Warranties, which reference international standards supporting human rights and strict labour practices, and its ongoing dialogue with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, “in the context of which we have expressed support for its due diligence guidance for minerals from high-risk areas”.
“All the while we remain cognisant that the stakes are extremely high. Millions of ordinary people, the majority of them living in developing economies where rough diamond deposits are located, are reliant on the revenues generated by the industry.
“They depend on us and our colleagues within the KP to remain engaged, working together wherever possible, and independently when necessary. For them, the diamond is not a luxury product, but an essential means toward a better future.”Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online