The British government was disappointed by the departure of Global Witness, a British-based non-governmental organisation, from the Kimberley Process Certification Process, Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Howell of Guildford said last week.
Global Witness was one of the founding members of the KP, an organisation that was started in 2003 to regulate the trade of rough diamonds and to stop the trade of conflict diamonds.
It left the KP on 5 December last year saying that the organisation’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny had rendered it useless.
Global Witness quit the KP only two weeks after the organisation had cleared Zimbabwe to trade its diamonds from Marange.
“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes” said Charmian Gooch of Global Witness.
“The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”
Lord Howell said last week he was pleased that agreement was reached on Zimbabwe diamonds at the Kimberley Process Plenary in Kinshasa in November.
“The agreement is robust but fair. It allows Zimbabwe only to export diamonds from the Marange region that comply with Kimberley Process standards, whilst establishing a credible independent monitoring mechanism to ensure those standards are respected, including a role for civil society,” he said in the House of Lords.
“The agreement commits Zimbabwe to take action to bring all mining in Marange into compliance with Kimberley Process minimum standards. The agreement also increases the likelihood that revenues from the export of Kimberley Process-compliant diamonds will benefit the Zimbabwean people.”
Global Witness claimed that proceeds from the Marange diamonds were being used to prop President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front to beat and cheat their way into another election.
The United States also placed two companies currently mining in Marange on its sanctions lists.
According to Wikileaks Britain instructed its foreign office three years ago to push the Kimberley Process to investigate Zimbabwe’s eligibility to the diamond controlling body and to approach leading non-governmental organisations Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada to do research and report on Zimbabwe’s trafficking in conflict diamonds because the KP was too slow.
The two organisations said they had not worked with the British government.