For much of the world, diamonds symbolize love but in reality a darker side lies behind the diamond industry. Conflict diamonds have been used by rebel groups in Africa to finance their atrocities committed on civilian populations and their insurrections against internationally recognized governments.
Beginning of the Kimberley Process
During the past three years, the United Nations has joined the growing movement to regulate the diamond trade and eliminate conflict diamonds. United Nations involvement has legitimized this social movement, helping its leaders to progress from mere awareness to effective action. While NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brought attention to the prevalence and problem of conflict diamonds, significant change in Sierra Leone required the force of international regulatory power.
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In May 2000, the first Kimberley conference was held in South Africa, drawing representatives from the U.S., Britain, South Africa, Belgium, African diamond producers, and De Beers. Sociologist Ndumbe (102) outlines the four points agreed upon in South Africa: (1) the need to establish a global certification system for diamonds; (2) the necessity of an international code of conduct to regulate the practices of the diamond industry, producing states, and marketing centers; (3) the formation of an independent monitoring agency to insure implementation of this certification system and code of conduct; and (4) establishment of a group to make recommendations on specific methods for implementing these agreements. In response to the second and third points, the World Diamond Council (WDC) was formed, mediating between NGOs, governments, and the UN. According to the WDC (WDC website), its ultimate mandate is "development, implementation and oversight of a tracking system for the export and import of rough diamonds to prevent the exploitation of diamonds for illicit purposes such as war and inhumane acts." Composed largely of members of such organizations as the International Diamond Manufacture’s Association, the WDC demanded representation from the diamond industry itself, forcing these individuals and corporations to recognize their own part in the problem. The WDC, government representatives, and NGOs held follow-up meetings during the next several months, and in July the UN Security Council formally adopted a resolution calling for an international diamond certification program. The UN now provided the force needed to bring substantial reform to the diamond industry, particularly in Sierra Leone.
Since that first meeting in South Africa in 2000, the World Diamond Council, along with related NGOs and governments, has focused primarily on establishing requirements for legitimate certificates of origin for all diamonds that enter the global market. The Kimberley Process, so-named because of its initial meeting held in Kimberley, South Africa, aims to block all trade of diamonds from areas of conflict such as Sierra Leone and Angola, nations where the diamond industry has financed civil wars and horrific human rights abuses. Advocates of the Kimberley Process believe that the first step toward eliminating conflict diamonds is a certification system that will unite the international community in regulation of the diamond trade.
Need for Global Solutions
Problems within a global economy require global solutions. The diamond industry functions through a complex network of workers, dealers, buyers, and governments; therefore corruption within the diamond industry cannot be solved by individual nations. Several powerful multinational corporations such as De Beers and the High Diamond Council in Belgium, not local entrepreneurs, basically control the entire diamond industry. Furthermore, individual nations cannot formulate solutions independently; everyone must work together. Smuggling, one thread of corruption within the diamond trade, perpetuates the problem by allowing conflict diamonds to still enter the global market. If one country has stricter laws than another, diamond sellers will simply smuggle their illegal merchandise into the more lenient nation. The Kimberley Process exemplifies the importance of international unity and corporation when solving problems in the modern era of globalization. The UN has served as an essential vehicle for change within the diamond trade because it brings together governments, businessmen, and human rights advocates. Each of their perspectives plays a vital role in the formation of practical solutions.
As a result of the most recent meetings in Switzerland in November 2002, the Kimberley Process will officially go into effect January 2003. The New York Times (Cowell 2002) explains that "only countries that subscribe to the new rules will be able to trade legally in rough diamonds. Countries that break the rules will be suspended, making their diamond exports illegal." Over forty nations, which together account for 90 percent of the legal total diamond trade, have agreed to commit to this UN-backed resolution. While most leaders acknowledge that the Kimberley Process will not completely solve the problem, they hope that new regulations will strengthen legitimate diamond trade and severely weaken the impact of illicit production and sales. Critics argue that the Kimberley Process, as adopted in 2002, is flawed because it relies on individual nations compliance. Without independent monitoring of the entire industry, the diamond trade is still very vulnerable to abuse. United Nations leaders hope that the new Kimberley Process will be at least an effective beginning to this very complex problem.
The diamond industry needs radical reform in order to halt current human rights abuses associated with illicit trade and to prevent further conflicts. Sierra Leone remains highly unstable, largely because of citizens inability to economically succeed. Diamonds account for much of Sierra Leone’s economy, yet the corrupt industry exploits workers, finances political conflicts, and prevents individual enterprise within the diamond trade. In light of this corruption, the Sierra Leone government needs to regain control of the diamond trade. Until Sierra Leone establishes greater political stability or effective regulations, the diamond industry cannot be privatized. The risks have proven to be far too high.
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