Useless, Irrelevant, Not Fit for PurposeNovember 16, 23
The Kimberley Process is useless, irrelevant and not fit for purpose.
So says Jaff Bamenjo, Cameroon-based vice coordinator of the KP Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC) the group of mostly African diamond-producing countries that observes KP discussion but has no decision-making powers.
He pulls no punches in his criticism, which follows the KP's failure to agree on a final communique at its plenary which ended last week in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (and a walkout by KPCSC observers).
The sticking point was Russia, currently engaged in a "special military operation", a "war of aggression" or "hostilities" with Ukraine, depending on your point of view.
The final communique required unanimous approval on the choice of words. There was no such approval, despite discussions that dragged on until 5am, and so there was no communique.
Bamenjo sees this as clear evidence that the body set up in 2003, at the behest of the United Nations, to outlaw conflict diamonds has failed to move with the times, and that its insistence on unanimity on every issue will continue to block any progress.
"As civil society we have always said that we need to adapt to the current context," he says. "But the governments who make the decisions don't want to change, they want to remain in the past. That is why we believe the KP is no longer fit for purpose."
KP's definition of what constitutes a conflict has remained unchanged since its inception, namely "rough diamonds sold by rebel groups or their allies to fund conflict against legitimate governments".
But Bamenjo says government actors and security forces should be included, in addition to rebels.
Would that include Russia?
"That is another bone of contention," he replies. "That is actually one of the causes of chaos within the KP. For over two years the KPCSC has said the issue of Russia should be discussed within the KP.
"Russia is a diamond-mining country, Russia has a diamond mining company that is providing the state with resources, and our assumption is that they are using this money to fund the aggression in Ukraine, which is also a KP member.
"But the KP has refused to discuss this, and that was part of the failure of having a communique. If Russia says no, there's no consensus and that blocks decisions.
"The KP is now about geopolitics, and it's not necessarily looking at the problems of the local communities. That's where we have an issue.
"The KP has become like a group of friends and they don't care about communities. The KP is becoming irrelevant because they are not considering all these issues."
UAE has now taken over from Zimbabwe as KP chair. Will that make a difference?
"They can influence the agenda, but not the mindset of the participants," says Bamenjo. "One participant can still block progress."
And what about the G7's long-awaited sanctions on Russian diamonds?
"The KP is becoming useless," he says. "If the G7 initiative comes to fruition it will take away some of the work that KP is supposed to be doing, and which they are not doing."
Will the KP still be here in five years?
"Maybe, depending on whether they are ready to reform."
Not everybody agrees, of course, with his view that KP is useless, irrelevant and not fit for purpose.
World Diamond Council (WDC) president Feriel Zerouki was "cautiously optimistic" in her concluding remarks in Zimbabwe.
"Progressing with an expansion of the definition of conflict diamonds is imperative, both for the KP and for consumer confidence in natural diamonds," she said.
"The encouraging progress and engagement in discussions on the definition so far is a testament to the willingness of participants and observers to reform the KP," she said.
The WDC said in a statement that it "strongly believes in the importance of the Kimberley Process in regulating the trade for rough diamonds across international borders.
"Despite the challenging landscape and the fact that the plenary was unable to reach consensus on the final communique, which resulted in the statement by the KP chair being distributed only within the KP family, many decisions were made to drive forward review and reform, cementing the work accomplished by KP participants and observers over the past 12 months."
Have a fabulous weekend.