The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is designed to certify the origin of diamonds from sources which are free of conflict. The idea being that a diamond originating from a country in conflict in which the diamonds feature heavily cannot substantiate that such diamonds are NOT the result of or the reason for such conflict.
After some negotiations, the process was established in 2002 to prevent rebel groups and their rivals from financing their wars and conflicts from the sale of diamonds. The certification scheme aims at preventing these “conflict or blood diamonds”, from entering the mainstream rough diamond market. It was set up to try to assure consumers that by purchasing diamonds they were not financing war and human rights abuses and has been criticized by some parties as a Public Relations exercise rather than an effective process.
The KPCS originated out of a meeting of South African diamond producing states in the Kimberley region, South Africa in May 2000. hence the name.
In December of 2000 the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution calling for the creation of a scheme that would allow certification of diamonds that had not been sold in order to finance civil war and the KPCS was finally agreed upon by nations involved in the trade of diamond and diamond-mining and production companies, notably De Beers and the World Diamond Council, in November 2002.
For a country to participate, it must ensure that any diamond originating from that country does not finance a rebel group or other entity seeking to overthrow a UN-recognized government. And that every diamond exported must be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate proving that no diamond is imported from, or exported to, a non-member of the scheme.
This three-step plan is a simple description of the steps taken to ensure a “chain” of countries that deal exclusively with non-conflict diamonds. Full details can be found in the official KPCS documents available online.
The KPCS is essentially self-enforced. Supervision of the Process is done by the Chair, elected on an annual basis at a plenary meeting. A Working Group on Monitoring monitors each participant to ensure that it is implementing the scheme correctly. The Working Group reports to the Chair.
In 2004, Congo (Brazzaville) was removed from the scheme because it was unable to prove or substantiate the origin of its gems. For countries economically dependent on diamond exports, this can be a substantial punishment, since it removes trade with much of the rest of the world.
Whilst the Process has been broadly welcomed by groups aiming to improve human rights in countries previously affected by conflict diamonds, such as Angola, some say it does not go far enough. For instance, Amnesty International says “[We] welcome the Kimberley Process as an important step to dealing with the problem of conflict diamonds. But until the diamond trade is subject to mandatory, impartial monitoring, there is still no effective guarantee that all conflict diamonds will be identified and removed from the market.” Canadian aid group One Sky (funded in part by the Canadian government) concurs with Amnesty’s view saying “If effectively implemented, the Kimberley Process will ensure that diamonds cannot be used to finance war and atrocities…However, without a system of expert, independent and periodic reviews of all countries, the overall process remains open to abuse.”.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is a good idea but does need more work to be effective and not just perceived as a PR job.