The Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process, named after a city in South Africa known for its vibrant diamond mining enterprise, was initiated in 2000 with the intent to prohibit the trafficking of conflict diamonds (aka “blood diamonds”) which in the 1990s funded rebel forces waging civil wars in African diamond producing countries, notably the DRC, Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The mining of blood  diamonds, which entails child labor, forced labor and other violations of human rights, was – and to some extent still is, evident in various South American countries as well. To eradicate this blight on the diamond industry, the UN General Assembly adopted an authorization plan for rough diamonds, which came into force in 2003 as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

Representing 75 countries and accounting for around 99.8% of the world’s diamond production, the KPCS obliges its participating member nations to meet basic requirements with the aim to guarantee that conflict diamonds do not go out on the market.  Under the KPCS, all participants must take the following measures: appoint import and export authorities; set up an internal control system to exclude blood diamonds from imports and exports; ensure that diamonds marked for export are shipped in tamper-resistant containers; issue a forgery-proof Kimberley Process Certificate with each shipment of rough diamonds for export; send out valid receipts for imports of rough diamonds from other KPCS participants; and verify that all trade in diamonds is conducted only with other KPCS members. Along these lines, participating KPCS nations are required to ensure transparency by keeping records of all diamond transactions and publishing quarterly statistics on rough diamond trading.

To a large extent, the Kimberley Process has been effective. The trafficking of conflict diamonds, which accounted for as much as 15% of the global diamond trade in the 1990s, has reportedly diminished to a fraction of one percent. Moreover, the legitimate diamond business has generated a dramatic revenue increase in diamond producing countries such as Sierra Leone, a former wellspring of blood diamonds whose lawful diamond exports have risen from less than $2 million in 2000 to current annual levels of $100 to $150 million.

In spite of this encouraging success, violations of the Kimberley rules have been reported in Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Ghana and Zimbabwe. KPCS members have proposed the introduction of more stringent controls to eliminate the blood diamond threat and ensure the legitimacy of the diamond trade.