Liberia has been subject to UN diamond sanctions for six years as a result of its civil war, financed in large part by the smuggling of conflict diamonds (a.k.a. blood diamonds) from Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone. Many might remember the successful movie "Blood Diamond" - an Academy Award-nominated 2006 film that stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The title of the movie refers to blood diamonds, which are diamonds mined in war zones (the movie features Sierra Leone and Liberia) and sold to finance these conflicts.
As chair of the Kimberley Process in 2007, the European Community last week admitted Liberia as a participant to the process following an assessment made by an expert mission sent to the country. The mission, led by the European Commission together with representatives from Botswana, industry and civil society, went to Liberia in March and concluded that the country met the conditions for admission. Following the UN Security Council's decision on April 27 to lift its diamond embargo on Liberia and the May 4 admission to the Kimberley Process, Liberia will now be able to export its rough diamonds legally to other Kimberley Process Members. The Process will continue to support and monitor Liberia closely post-admission. This leaves C te d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) as the only country subject to UN diamond sanctions.
Kimberley Process experts visited Liberia in 2005, 2006 and 2007 to advise Liberia on implementing effective controls on diamond production and trade designed to prevent conflict diamonds. The most recent team, led by the European Commission, found that Liberia had designed effective controls in line with Kimberley Process requirements, and reported its findings to the UN Security Council. Based on the progress made by Liberia, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1753 (2007) lifting the diamond embargo, on April 27. The team made a number of recommendations to Liberia and Kimberley Process bodies to ensure conflict diamonds are excluded from Liberia's trade, as well as recommending to continue providing support and training to Liberia.
Kimberley Process participants and observers, including the US, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Canada, Sierra Leone and the World Diamond Council, as well as the UN Mission in Liberia and the UN Development Program, have worked closely with the Government of Liberia to advise, train and equip the Government Diamond Office and its officials.
The European Commission is committed, as chair of the Kimberley Process in 2007, to support effective implementation of controls by all participants and to deepen its already close cooperation with the UN to promote peace and security in Africa.
The Kimberley Process - Background
The Kimberley Process grew out of discussions in May 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa, among interested governments, the international diamond industry and civil society, as a unique initiative to combat "blood diamonds" - rough diamonds used to finance devastating conflicts in the 1990s in some of Africa's diamond-producing countries. The Kimberley Process is backed by the United Nations and, in December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds, renewed most recently in December 2006.
In November 2002, an agreement was reached on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS): an innovative system imposing extensive requirements on all participants to control all imports and exports of rough diamonds and to put in place rigorous internal controls over production and trade to ensure that conflict diamonds could not enter the legal diamond trade. In four years, the Kimberley Process has helped to reduce the amount of conflict diamonds to a fraction of 1% of world trade.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme now has 46 participants (with the European Community counting as a single participant), totaling 72 countries including all major diamond producing, trading and polishing centers, and counts on the active participation of civil society and industry groups.
In 2006, three years after its entry into force, the Kimberley Process undertook a major review of its functioning and impact. A review report presented and general overview of the impact of the scheme on the trade in conflict diamonds, and of the effectiveness of the KP's peer review mechanism, is provided in a report.*
The report indicated that the Kimberley Process has been successful in curbing the flow in conflict diamonds to less than 0.2% of the world's total annual production of diamonds by volume (total production being in the range of 160 million carats), by drawing on KP expert estimates of production levels in the two countries subject to UN diamond embargoes: Liberia (140,000 carats) and Cote d'Ivoire (200,000 carats). The review concluded that the KPCS was effective and remained necessary and made a number of recommendations to improve its functioning, which the European Commission will take forward during its chairmanship.
Within the EC, the KPCS is implemented by a Council Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2368/2002), adopted on December 20, 2002. The Regulation lays down the procedures and criteria to be followed in the import and export of rough diamonds into and from the EC, and creates a uniform EC Kimberley Process certificate, which is used for all shipments. The regulation also provides for EU Member States that wish to do so to designate "Community authorities," which can then carry out the import and export procedures foreseen under the KPCS. The Regulation further sets out provisions for self-regulation by the diamond industry in the EC.
On a personal note, as the legal counsel for the Liberian refugees in Israel, I hope that lifting of the sanctions will bring new hope for that war-ridden country.
The full report is available at http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/kimb/docs/review_150206.pdf
The author is the head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov Law Firm.