The Kimberley Process was set up in 2003 by the UN as a means of eradicating conflict diamonds from the rough-cut diamond market. The humanitarian initiative is defined as “a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds – rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments.”
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was devised as a way to legitimize diamond trade among countries, which do not channel the resulting revenue into civil wars. The Kimberley Process is membered by “representatives from government, industry, and civil society [who] are mostly working for positive ends and seeking to do good”. However, even this mandate is not sufficient to accommodate supply chain management, which is essential to checking both conflict diamonds and general abuses within the diamond industry.
What Exactly is KPCS?
The KPCS is a process that involves certifying countries that meet set requirements for the supply of conflict-free diamonds, which are essentially diamonds that do not fund rebel movements. Every participating country that meets the minimum requirements put in place by the scheme is awarded Kimberley Process certificates. Sadly, there are fake certificates abound too, and are used in many places around the globe to push diamond sales.
How is Conflict-Free Different from Violence-Free?
The Kimberley Process is openly proud and highly vocal of having pruned the world’s diamond supply to conflict-free stones. Most consumers tend to see them as ‘violence-free’, however, which they are not. The Kimberley Process focuses merely on wars, neglecting the other negative impacts rampant in the diamond industry, such as the following.
- Low wages
- Human Rights Abuses
- Child workers
- Inhumane working conditions
- Environmental Degradation
The Kimberley Process, as well as the majority of diamond manufacturers, disregards these abuses, almost as a rule. Retailers who sell mined diamonds often use Kimberley Process certificates to assuage customers with concerns about any conflict associated with the gems they buy.
Most diamond producing nations have Kimberley Process certification, which lets them trade internationally on a reputed level. However, they scheme sets a low bar on what is need to attain this certification. The only requisite is that trade proceeds should not aid rebel movements targeting legitimate governments, which means any country not suffering from civil war at the time can attain certification. Even otherwise, it is possible to manage a passing grade, so long as the country sets up the required ‘systems’.
This, however, is not enough for ethical diamond miners and suppliers, who prefer to go further than adhering such cursory standards. There are many who base their business and operations on a variety of responsible factors, such as how the diamond trade impacts the environment, how it treats the people that work in the mines, as well as the effect on communities adjoining mines. This approach aims for much more than the mere absence of rebel-fueled conflicts in the area, and focuses on thwarting violence of all forms, including low wages and human rights abuses, both of which are prevalent in several Kimberley Process certified countries.
While it may sound naive at many levels, parties operating in the diamond industry have the choice to do good, at least insofar as their work is concerned. Retailers and suppliers who opt to go this way often command a special respect among jewelers, and rightly so. These people choose not to lower prices through ignoring atrocities committed against the laborers who do the hardest share of work in the diamond business. Instead, they stick to sourcing diamonds ethically, which while significantly more expensive, are nevertheless figuratively free of blood. This also lets consumers rest assured they did not dish out hard-earned money to have it abet violence in any part of the world, no matter how amazingly beautiful the jewelry they got for it.
Due diligence on the side of suppliers and retailers is essential to tracing the origin of each diamond, as well as the route it took to get to the display case. This is the only way they can ensure they do not accidentally aid conflicts, which could result in loss of life or human rights violation. Many jewelers in turn select their supply from ethically mined suppliers. Beside this, many industry members actively contribute to efforts aimed at ridding the diamond scene of abuses, such as through ensuring that workers get to taste their share of development benefits. A consumer who seeks out such a supply chain is guaranteed peace of mind from the moral and ethical standpoints.
Meanwhile, KPCS is headed towards being obsolete due to inadequacy. Its focus should broaden to accommodate all kinds of abuses occurring in the diamond industry, as opposed to the just civil wars coinciding with entrant nations’ certification exams.