Civic groups slam ‘rigid’ Kimberley Process as Russia emerges unscathed

Activists in Botswana have criticized the Kimberley Process, which aims to stop diamonds from funding wars, after meetings this week failed to censure Russia.

The European Union (EU) and its allies have sought to expand the definition of conflict diamonds to include Russia’s main supplier for its invasion of Ukraine.

A push to have Russian diamonds censored at a week-long meeting in the resort town of Kasane proved futile.

The EU, Ukraine and the United States had called for the intersessional meeting of the Kimberley Process to expand the definition of conflict diamonds following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Russia is the world’s largest producer of diamonds.

Speaking at the closing meeting on Friday, Kimberley Process Chair Jacob Thamage said efforts by the EU and its allies had failed due to a lack of consensus.

“You will recall that when we started on Monday afternoon, it took quite a long time to reach consensus on the agenda, because initially the EU had proposed the inclusion of a point to the agenda around which there was no consensus,” Thamage said. “Ideas and proposals have been tabled to be put on the agenda. For example, those who supported the original EU proposal, with an amended proposal that talked about preventing diamonds from fueling conflict .

According to the Chairman of the World Diamond Council, Edward Asscher, reforms are needed, particularly regarding the definition of conflict diamonds.

“This year, throughout our engagement with many government participants here in Kasane, there appears to be strong support for further reforms, including that of the definition of conflict diamonds,” Asscher said. “We participated in an intersession organized by the civil society coalition and we were happy to have been able to conduct an open and honest dialogue on the reform of the KP. We would like to see this dialogue continue within the KP.

Asscher says he still has confidence and believes in the Kimberley Process despite recent criticism that the diamond trade body is losing its relevance.

However, Hans Merket, a member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, was disappointed with the outcome of the Botswana meeting.

“The consensus system makes it too easy for a small minority to hold everyone hostage,” Merket said. “The consensus model is used to veto any progress. The world is bypassing the Kimberley Process.

Merket adds that it is disappointing that talks about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have stalled.

“We kind of expected a discussion about whether Russian diamonds should be considered conflict diamonds with the invasion of Ukraine,” Merket said. “This discussion was blocked. We were ready to use the right of veto to prevent the KP from discussing this issue. What is worse is that we could not discuss the general weakness of the KP and how the KP fails to break the link between diamonds and violent conflict.”

The world’s leading diamond producers, from 85 countries, will return to Botswana in November for plenary discussions.

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