University of Notre Dame
Throughout the 1990s, civil society campaigns drew attention to the links between the trade in rough diamonds and the violent conflicts in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire—conflicts that collectively had claimed millions of lives. Conflict diamonds, or “blood diamonds” as they have become known in popular culture, became the subject of civil society campaigns that demanded greater transparency from both the secretive diamond industry and the governments of diamond-producing countries. These campaigns called for measures that would ensure accountability to prevent the financing of armed conflicts through the diamond trade.
The new millennium saw the creation of the Kimberley Process, a multi-stakeholder collaborative effort between governments, civil society, and the diamond industry, tasked with regulating the rough diamond trade in order to eradicate conflict diamonds. As a result of the initial Kimberley Process negotiations, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was introduced in 2003 to provide overarching guidelines and standards for the international rough diamond trade in order to eliminate the use of rough diamonds in the funding of rebel movements. Comprised of participant states that are involved in the rough diamond trade, and observers from the diamond industry and civil society groups, the Kimberley Process meets annually to oversee KPCS implementation, and a number of working groups are mandated with monitoring and improving implementation of the KPCS. This paper will provide an overview of the trade in conflict diamonds and the strengths and weaknesses of the Kimberley Process and the KPCS. It will assess what lessons can be learned from the Kimberley Process as a multi-stakeholder initiative to address and prevent armed conflict through the creation of new norms and standards.
The UN General Assembly has defined conflict diamonds as being “rough diamonds which are used by rebel movements to finance military activities, including attempts to undermine or overthrow legitimate governments.” Diamonds occur in different geological forms and such differences impact the methods by which diamonds are extracted and traded. Kimberlite diamonds, also referred to as primary diamonds, are found in underground deposits and require sophisticated mining operations. They are therefore much more likely to be controlled by governments or large companies that can bear the costs of mining and extraction. Alluvial diamonds, or secondary diamonds, are mostly found near riverbeds and require little specialized equipment, rather relying on individual diggers whose methods are referred to as ‘artisanal mining.’ The relative ease of the extraction of alluvial diamonds makes them far more susceptible to being looted than Kimberlite diamonds. Indeed, in Sierra Leone, Angola, and the DRC—countries in which both rebel movements and governments have financed and sustained their military campaigns through the sale of rough diamonds—artisanal mining of alluvial diamond deposits is the primary method of extraction.
Alluvial diamonds not only fund violent conflict, they make it less likely that parties to a conflict will want to make peace. Lujala, Gleditsch, and Gilmore have suggested that “lootable natural resources are likely to have a negative impact on a peace process since continued conflict might be more profitable for the combatants than an outbreak of peace.” Furthermore, Wetzel has argued that failures in finding solutions to violent conflict can, in part, be pinned on a failure to address the underlying economic motives for armed conflict, and that “the increased relevance of economic factors in armed conflicts calls for the development of new instruments addressing this issue.”
Debate is ongoing as to whether rebel groups utilize the rough diamond trade as a means to an end to sustain their military operations, or whether violent conflict surrounding the rough diamond trade fundamentally represents the underlying motives of rebel groups as they stake their claim to potential wealth . Regardless of whether it is a cause or symptom of armed conflict, the funding of rebel groups through the trade in rough diamonds funds and perpetuates armed conflict, with severe implications for the populations of affected countries.
The Origins of the Kimberley Process
In 1998 the UK-based NGO, Global Witness, published its report, A Rough Trade, drawing attention to the role that the diamond trade had played in sustaining conflict in Angola.The report highlighted the “dangerous acceptance amongst the international community that the mechanics of the trade in diamonds… are beyond any real controls.” Soon afterwards in 2000, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) released its report The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds and Human Security, which further exposed the links between diamond extraction, the diamond trade, and the funding of violent conflict.Global Witness and PAC were later co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for their role in highlighting the problem of conflict diamonds and pressuring governments and the diamond industry to address the situation.The PAC report re-emphasized the case that “there was virtually no oversight of the international movement of diamonds,”and that this had a direct impact on peace and security in countries, such as Sierra Leone, with alluvial diamond deposits.
As public awareness of the problem grew, a wide range of actors from politicians to civil society groups mobilized support and placed increased pressure on the diamond industry and governments to address the situation. Gberie has pointed to the tendency in much of the literature to overlook the contributions of African civil-society organizations in generating awareness of the conflict diamond problem through partnership with Western NGOs, and it is important to note that local NGOs in Africa played an important role in the stages leading to the Kimberley Process.
Haufler suggested that “the blood diamond campaign had the potential to change how consumers viewed diamonds, destroying their reputation.”In this climate of growing urgency, politicians from diamond-producing and diamond-importing states, representatives from the diamond industry, and civil society groups gathered in the historic diamond-mining town of Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000 to discuss possible solutions. The Kimberley Process has subsequently been described as “a hybrid, multi-stakeholder initiative” of governments, the diamond industry, and civil society who each play a major role in “norm-setting and norm-enforcing.” Following a series of meetings and negotiations, and a December 2000 UN resolution supporting the creation of a certification scheme, the KPCS was created in November 2002, and began to be implemented in 2003. The Kimberley Process is today made up of 49 participants representing 75 countries that are committed to adhere to KPCS standards, with the European Community and its member states being treated as one participant. In addition to the participants, the diamond industry and the NGOs Global Witness and PAC are included in the process as observers who attend the annual meetings and participate in KPCS working groups. The diamond industry is represented by the World Diamond Council, which represents more than 50 diamond industry organizations.
The response of governments and the diamond industry, in the face of heightened attention and concern over the problem of conflict diamonds, can be characterized as both reactive and proactive. On the one hand, the prospect of a boycott was potentially damaging to diamond-producing countries and the diamond industry alike, and therefore the Kimberley Process can be seen as response to this threat. On the other hand, the elimination of diamond-related conflict and the trade in conflict diamonds would benefit those governments and companies affected, by such conflict, and therefore their involvement was proactive in seeking a solution.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)
In essence the KPCS can be described as “an industry-based certification scheme wrapped inside an export/import regime that is implemented through domestic legislation in member states.” The KPCS provides a framework of minimum standards to verify the origin of rough diamonds through certification and monitoring. While the KPCS provides guidelines for implementation, participant states are expected to design and maintain “a system of internal controls designed to eliminate the presence of conflict diamonds from shipments of rough diamonds imported into and exported from its territory.” These controls range from the logistical elements of transporting diamonds, such as tamper-resistant containers and certification, to laws and codes of practice to ensure compliance. KPCS participants also agree to standards of cooperation and transparency, and agree to the accurate submission of data in order that statistics may be compiled. Participants agree to attend annual plenary sessions, and sit on working groups that ensure the implementation of the KPCS and promote better controls for the future.
The working group on monitoring ensures that the minimum standards of the KPCS, and participant’s internal controls, are being implemented, and is essentially a ‘peer review’ system. Each participant state’s compliance to the KPCS standards is reviewed every three years by a team comprised of representatives of three other governments and civil society and the diamond industry respectively, after which a report is generated.
Evaluating the KPCS
The statistics indicate that the KPCS has been successful in limiting the percentage of conflict diamonds in the diamond trade “from up to 15 percent at the end of the 1990s to less than 1 percent within the last decade.” This suggests that certification and monitoring measures have significantly limited the prevalence of conflict diamonds in the diamond market. In addition to decreasing the prevalence of conflict diamonds in the international diamond trade, the KPCS has allowed countries to benefit from the revenues generated by access to the legitimate diamond trade. Despite this apparent success, the KPCS has been criticized for not adequately ensuring the elimination of conflict diamonds from the international diamond trade. In recent times, the continued export of diamonds from the Marange region of Zimbabwe, despite documentation of human rights violations committed by the government to gain control of diamond production, has demonstrated weaknesses in the KPCS. It is therefore necessary to further examine the KPCS in an attempt to understand how it has been successful, and how it can improve.
It could be argued that one of the KPCS’s greatest strengths has been its ability to increase the risk associated with the trade in rough conflict diamonds. Wetzel has argued that the effectiveness of sanctions hinges on whether “the costs of illegal trading are increased substantially, and legal trading provides the warring factions with an incentive to discontinue fighting.” While conflict diamonds still exist to some degree, their prevalence has been limited, and thereby it could be argued that the risk of conflict has been lessened in contexts where conflict was previously sustained and financed by revenues from conflict diamonds.
Another strength of KPCS is its structure as a multi-stakeholder initiative, which has led to increased and continuing accountability in the implementation stages. Jojarth has noted that due to the traditional secrecy that has shrouded the diamond trade, civil society plays an important role in highlighting instances of exploitation and injustice, and holding the diamond industry accountable for its practices. The involvement of industry, governments, and civil society theoretically, ensures that standards are maintained throughout the production, export, and import processes, and at national borders and customs checkpoints. The multi-stakeholder dimension increases the reach of the KPCS, but this reach relies on robust self-enforcement and compliance with KPCS guidelines at the level of the state and individual company.
The KPCS’s emphasis on self-regulation is appealing to countries as they can remain fully autonomous and limit the intrusiveness of international agreements. However, while self-regulation and enforcement may be seen as a strength in some contexts, it could also be viewed as a weakness in cases where the state is weak and institutions are lacking robustness. The working group on monitoring aims to address this concern, and it could be argued that the peer review model ensures that a degree of accountability is maintained. Jojarth has noted that the KPCS provides an example of the way that “a legally non-binding agreement can still reach a moderate level of obligation thanks to strong compliance mechanisms.” However, while the KPCS, on the surface, ensures compliance through the peer review system and the working group on monitoring, the robustness of such compliance mechanisms has been called into question. Partnership Africa Canada, in their capacity as an observer to the Kimberley process, havs highlighted significant flaws in the peer review system. Review visits have been criticized as being superficial, inconsistent in their approach, inadequately resourced, and too short to gain a comprehensive overview of the country’s diamond industry. Furthermore, instances of non-compliance that have been reported are said to have been met with inaction or slow responses that lack substantive consequences.
A major criticism of the KPCS is that it is too limited in its scope. The definition of conflict diamonds subscribed to by both the UN and the KPCS defines conflict diamonds as rough diamonds that fund rebel movements, and may be used to undermine or overthrow legitimate governments. The exclusive focus on rebel movements in these definitions is problematic in that it fails to recognize the potential for governments themselves to exploit rough diamonds and to use the proceeds to fund armed conflict. It could also be argued that the legitimacy of a government is a grey area in some contexts, especially in situations when the government has committed human rights abuses or electoral results have been disputed or ignored.
Although one of the KPCS’s greatest successes has been “setting a precedent for establishing binding rules of engagement regarding doing business in conflict zones,” there are shortcomings when it comes to the diamond industry’s adherence to such standards. The KPCS’s exclusive focus on rough diamonds means that polished or cut diamonds are not included in its scope. While the processing of diamonds is a more complicated process, it is still feasible that violent conflict could be enabled by the sale of such diamonds, given an organization’s capacity to process diamonds. Global Witness maintains that diamond-industry standards are inadequate and do not ensure that conflict diamonds are not present at other stages of the diamond supply chain. If the industry fails to police itself and hold itself to a high standard, then there is potential for the continuation of the infiltration of conflict diamonds into the international diamond trade. While this may fall beyond the scope of the KPCS, it could be argued that the Kimberley Process could do more to ensure compliance within the diamond industry, just as it holds governments accountable for their enforcement of KPCS standards through the peer review system.
The KPCS’s reliance on the self-enforcement of standards and compliance allows participant states a degree of freedom in deciding the specifics of how to implement the guidelines included in the KPCS document. Tripathi has argued that this can lead to uneven standards between participants, and that disparities and weaknesses in internal controls allow conflict diamonds to become mixed up with legitimate diamonds through these weak points in the system. Establishing a greater degree of uniformity between the standards of participants may be one way of improving upon this situation, although the practicalities of this may be difficult to implement.
While a sense of urgency was felt within the diamond industry and by those countries whose GDP is reliant on diamond exports, this urgency was not shared by those governments for whom diamonds are merely a luxury good. Tripathi has contrasted diamonds with essential commodities that are associated with conflict, such as oil and coltan, and argued that one of the largest challenges facing the KPCS is a lack of political will to ensure and contribute to its success.
Conclusion: Lessons Learned from the KPCS
While the KPCS remains open to criticism from those who see it as being too narrowly focused or lacking robustness, the Kimberley Process as a whole provides an example of the ability of a multi-stakeholder initiative to set new industry and international standards, and to affect the dynamics of armed conflict by limiting rebel movements access to finances. Collier has argued that the Kimberley Process demonstrates that “even very modest steps can get some traction.”
The Kimberley Process showcases the capacity of civil society to initiate and influence changes in other sectors and set new norms and standards of best practice. Collier has noted that largely due to the pressure of organizations such as Global Witness, De Beers, one of the largest diamond-mining companies, actively addressed the challenge of conflict diamonds through changing its practices, and through involvement with the World Diamond Council and the KPCS. In a global context where it is essential for businesses to consider their corporate social responsibility and the impact of their practices in order to protect themselves and ensure the sustainability of their operations, the implementation of the KPCS provides an example of an industry conforming to new standards of best practice and working collaboratively towards the elimination of a social problem. The Kimberley Process showcases the transformative role that multi-stakeholder collaboration can have in tackling an existing problem and crafting an effective solution that contributes to the prevention and cessation of violent conflict. The Kimberley Process also demonstrated the capacity of civil society to foster change, and the ability of industry to respond to a problem and set new standards of best practice.
In light of the strengths and weaknesses displayed through the implementation of the KPCS, a number of recommendations can be made for continued improvement, and for future initiatives that seek to address the exploitation of natural resources as a means of financing armed conflict.
The Kimberley Processes multi-stakeholder approach lends a sense of legitimacy to the initiative as divergent viewpoints are incorporated into the solution. This inter-sectoral approach has been sustained through the granting of observer status to industry and civil society groups, and the presence of critical voices in the process adds to its legitimacy. A similar multi-stakeholder approach is therefore important to future governance initiatives aimed at preventing armed conflict.
The Kimberley Process is founded on a UN definition of conflict diamonds that is limited to the exploitation of the rough diamond trade by rebel movements. The expansion of this definition to include governments would widen the scope of the KPCS and allow it to address abuses by states who exploit the rough diamond trade to fund violent conflict.
An initiative such as the KPCS relies on robust implementation, and it is therefore important that adequate consequences for non-compliance are created and implemented. Accountability and transparency are essential to ensuring compliance, and should be fostered through continual monitoring and peer review. Partnership Africa Canada argue that independent third-party monitoring, along with credible sanctions, is an essential step toward ensuring the effectiveness of the KPCS. While self-enforcement allows for context-specific implementation, it is also necessary that there is some degree of uniformity of standards in order that consistency in ensured. Finally, these measures rely on political will and motivation within the industry to implement standards, monitor compliance and progress, and evaluate success. The generation of political will and motivation is a continual challenge that must be addressed through awareness-building measures that emphasize the nature of the problem, and demonstrate the consequences of inaction.
While these points represent just a few of the lessons learned from the KPCS, they are a good starting point for future initiatives to contemplate, and have proved to be important in the case of the Kimberley Process.
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 Wetzel Op Cit, p.164
 Lujala, P., Gleditsch, N.P. & Gilmore, E. (2005). A Diamond Curse? Civil War and a Lootable Resource. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49 (4).
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Smillie, I. (2010). Paddles for Kimberley: An Agenda for Reform. Partnership Africa Canada, June 2010
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