22nd Oct 2019

EU to lead global fight against blood diamonds

The European Commission has been assigned to lead the global fight against the conflict diamond trade, believed to have financed some of the most devastating civil wars in Africa during the past decade.

Brussels will serve as vice-chair of what is known as the Kimberly Process - an international body aiming to eradicate trade in illicit diamonds - under Botswana's chairmanship in 2006 before taking over as chairman in 2007.

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A commission spokesperson said that next year will be a good opportunity for the commission to watch and learn how to be effective in the leading role.

Conflict diamonds, also called blood diamonds, are gems used to fund conflicts or human rights abuses, often handled by rebel groups in civil wars, as in the cases of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

A coalition of governments, diamond producing countries, diamond-industry representatives and civil society created the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) in 2002 in response to the problem.

The EU will as chairman be responsible for ensuring compliance throughout the business with the KPCS regulations, controlling international shipments of rough diamonds from Africa, making sure they come with a certificate of legality.

Brussels must also act as intermediary in disputes between other members and monitor all activities in the diamond trail.

Kimberley Process participants account for 99.8 percent of global diamond production. It has 45 members out of which the EU member states, lead by the commission, accounts for one.

Initiative does not convince watchdogs

But the commission will face a hard task.

Two weeks ago, investigative NGO Global Witness released a report called ‘Making it Work: Why the Kimberley Process Must Do More to Stop Conflict Diamonds’, which strongly criticised the Kimberly Process members for "lack of action".

"Controls in the diamond trade from mining to polishing are still inadequate and poorly enforced due to the lack of effective monitoring capacity and political will. Some members of the diamond industry continue to trade in conflict diamonds," the report stated.

A year-old Amnesty International survey among over 800 diamond retailers in Europe showed that only 19 of the companies providing customers with a certificate that the diamonds they bought were legal, with contestants saying "we are not touched, we have more important things to think about."

The external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said in a press release on Thursday (17 November) that the EU would commit to breaking the link between the illicit exploitation of natural resources and armed conflict.

"Our primary objective as Chair will be to promote the fullest possible implementation of the KPCS by all participants."

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