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The Kimberley Process returns to its roots

Article - May 7, 2015

The 2003 UN resolution to stop the blood diamond trade, known as the Kimberley Process, has come full circle, as Angola – the birthplace of the concept – has now taken chairmanship for 2015

The issue of conflict diamonds was brought to the attention of the general American public back in 2006, with the release of the Hollywood blockbuster Blood Diamond. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance, the movie is set during the Sierra Leone Civil War 1996–2006 and deals with the issue of diamonds sold by armed groups to finance conflicts.

During the 1990s and height of the civil war, Angola was another hotspot for the blood diamond trade. Between 1992 and 1998, the rebel group UNITA illegally sold more than $3 billion worth of diamonds to fund its war against the government. Aside from Sierra Leone and Angola, blood diamonds have been used to finance conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and also Zimbabwe.

The end of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie depicts a historic conference that took place in Kimberley, South Africa in 2000, when several diamond-producing
countries, including Angola, came together to discuss measures to stop the blood diamond trade. This led to the establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification System (KPCS) by the United Nations in 2003.

The main aim of the KPCS is to certify diamonds as “conflict-free”, thus to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream rough diamond market and to ensure that diamond purchases are not financing violence by rebel groups.

The Kimberly Process (KP) now has 54 participants representing 81 countries, which together are responsible for 99% of world diamond production. Aside from committing to trade in diamonds that are certified “conflict-free”, participating states must put in place national legislation and institutions; export, import and internal controls; and also commit to transparency and the exchange of statistical data.

The concept of combating conflict diamonds that would give rise to the certificate of the Kimberly Process began in Angola. “It sits at the very birth of the Kimberly Process and played an important role working with the United Nations to normalize the certification system for diamond trade,” says Minister of Geology and Mines Francisco Queiróz.

“We created a system that was then adopted internationally as the Kimberly Process, but that originated in Angola. The country now wishes to have a larger impact and play a more active role. It is in our best interest to position ourselves actively within those processes and not be mere observers.”

Angola now has a unique opportunity to make a larger impact. In January the country assumed the presidency of KP. During its one-year term as president, its agenda will focus on issues related to the international sale of diamonds, as well as to use its own experience to support diamond-producing counties affected by conflict in order to bring them to the certification process. As chair, Angola has also pledged to strengthen the unity of the three pillars of the KP:  governments, industry, and civil society.

“The presidency will enable Angola to contribute towards a continuation of diamonds as a force for peace and development. As vice-president (in 2014) we had the responsibility, given our vast conflict resolution experience, to positively influence the way the institution operates,” says former general manager of the Catoca Mining Company Dr. José Ganga Junior, who was recently replaced by Russian Sergei Mitiukhin in March.

Speaking on Angola’s presidency, Avi Paz, President of the World Diamond Council, said, “It is a proud moment for the Kimberly Process that a country which, once afflicted by civil conflict, has now regained political and economic stability and, as a consequence, is able to assume a position of leadership in the very institution that helped set it on its way to recovery.”