Israel on Monday hosted its first summit as chair of the Blood Diamond
monitoring organization, the Kimberley Process (KP), since being installed in
the rotating post in January.
The 200 delegates from 42 countries met at
the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv to discuss the process and its aims in an
inter-sessional meeting leading up to the KP’s annual plenum in
The summit faces many challenges, and many believe the KP is
now at a crossroads that will determine its future.
The process rests on
a unique partnership between states, members of the diamond industry and
society groups, but pressing issues threaten to break the cooperation
In 2002, the UN launched the Kimberley Process Certification
Scheme to certify the origins of rough gems and to block sale of gems
finance rebel organizations in conflict zones, but for the past year,
the No. 1
item on the KP’s agenda has been to find ways to deal with Zimbabwe, a
state and a member nation in the process.
The New York-based Human Rights
Watch says its researchers have found evidence of forced labor, torture,
beatings and harassment by troops in the Marange diamond field in
Zimbabwe, and have called for removing it from the process.
Kimberley Process risks total irrelevance if it ignores these ongoing
said Rona Peligal, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If the
Kimberley Process can’t take real action on an issue like Zimbabwe, then
it good for?” Last year, the KP sanctioned Zimbabwe for “significant
noncompliance,” banning sale of Marange diamonds to member states, but
short of expelling it. Instead it sent a special monitor to the region
examine the situation on the ground and make recommendations to the
how to proceed.
In his report to the participants on Monday, the special
monitor, Abbey Chikane, who had visited the region twice since November,
that “the government of Zimbabwe has demonstrated its commitment to meet
minimum requirements of the KP,” regarding strengthening internal
curbing illegal digging and regulating alluvial mining.
recommended that Zimbabwe be allowed to resume selling diamonds as
conflict-free diamonds in international markets.
The report drew early
criticism from human rights groups after its contents were leaked to the
earlier this month.
The criticism grew after a Zimbabwean human rights
activist; Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development, was
by the Zimbabwean authorities in early June on charges that he had
sensitive information prejudicial to state interests. Members of the
rights community believe he was arrested for voicing his opinions
Chikane’s report and the situation at the Marange mines.
“If Zimbabwe is
jailing activists for writing about abuses connected to diamond mining,
is hardly meeting the minimum standards for Kimberley Process
Peligal said. “In addition, the chaos – and allegations – surrounding
visit and his approach call into question the credibility,
integrity of his work.”
In his welcoming address to the conference’s
participants, Industry, Trade and Labor minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
about the delegates’ responsibility to the process.
Process faces substantial challenges.
It is a must for you all to
undertake all efforts necessary in order to reach an agreement – an
necessary to maintain this vital regulatory framework that ensures
buyers of diamonds that they do not support blood shedding and violence,
the other hand, ensures that diamonds can serve as a legitimate tool to
economic growth of nations and the welfare of their people,” said
Boaz Hirsch, who represents Israel as the chair of the KP,
said that much of the conference would be dedicated to dealing with
“The arrest of an NGO representative, Mr. Farai Maguwu, on June
3 for breach of Zimbabwean law has created a whirlpool of negative
high tensions among our participants.
[These] threaten to deviate us from
the agreed route towards an applicable solution in regard to exports of
diamonds from Marange, with all the derived consequences,” said
“The KP standards must and will be upheld. At the same time,
consideration will be given to the uniqueness and special needs of each
participant, and efforts will not be spared to find the ways and means
accommodate it,” he said.
Hirsch also spoke of the importance of all
parties in the process feeling that their voices were being heard,
importance of the role NGOs played in the process.
“We are all under the
duty to act in a vigilant manner to enable [civil society] to operate
– otherwise a void will be created within us that will be detrimental to
holistic nature of the KP,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the civil
society leg of the KP, Annie Dunnebacke of the NGO Global Witness said
“Farai’s arrest and continued detention casts an unprecedented shadow
Kimberley Process proceedings.
Put simply, if one-third of the Kimberley
Process cannot do its job freely and safely, then the KP cannot
Dunnebacke continued, “Over the years we have always been at the
forefront of efforts to explain why the KP matters so much. In recent
has become more and more challenging to justify to the world why we
support it. We won’t be able to make excuses for the KP, or for our role
for much longer – we cannot, and will not, be complicit in the trampling
human rights. We will not stand by as the KP’s commitment to halting
fueled by diamonds is ignored.”
Dunnebacke concluded by reminding the
participants of the KP’s goals.
“We built the KP with one very clear
reason in mind – people were dying because of diamonds, and the world
action. This remains the single most important aim of the Kimberley
we cannot cast this aside when it becomes either politically
simply difficult to achieve,” she said.
Speaking for the diamond
industry, World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff called for the
release of Maguwu.
“This clearly was an uncalled-for and patently unjust
attempt by the country’s government to suppress criticism. Such actions
be condemned clearly and without equivocation,” he said.
Process will continue to pay dividends if we keep our eyes on the ball,
the case of Zimbabwe, that means monitoring carefully what is happening
Marange. We will not rest until this diamond-producing area is operating
benefit of all the country’s citizens,” added Izhakoff.
Over the next
three days, the participants will continue discussing Zimbabwe, as well
ways of strengthening the KP. Israel is advancing three draft
it feels will help further limit the trade in blood diamonds. The first
suggestion talks about strengthening ties with the World Customs
The second deals with creating a body to facilitate trade
and mediate trade disagreement, and the third deals with setting up
administrative institutions for the KP to better sustain the rotating
of chair and serve as the process’s institutional memory.
to this report.