PAC and the Kimberley Process

The 'Kimberley Process (KP)' was initiated in May 2000, in the town of Kimberley, where South African diamonds were first discovered in the 1860s.

Concerned about how diamond-fuelled wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo might affect the legitimate trade in other producing countries, the government of South Africa called for a meeting between diamond producing and trading country governments, industry and NGOs in an effort to grapple with the problem of conflict diamonds—a problem that NGOs and the United Nations had brought to public attention over the previous 18 months.

It then took three years of meetings on a regular basis to develop an international certification system for rough diamonds – The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

PAC became involved in the conflict diamond issue in 1999 out of concern about the lack of international interest in Sierra Leone's conflict. The investigation focused on what was sustaining the various groups into carry out the protracted conflict, and attention turned to diamonds.

In January 2000, PAC published "The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds and Human Security," which received widespread attention in the media. It provided the first "logical" explanation for the war and its duration, and helped bring badly needed international attention to Sierra Leone. A UN Sanctions Committee on Angola later released a report on the connection between diamonds and weapons that confirmed what PAC had said about the diamond industry at large, and the particular role of the industry's main trading centre, Antwerp.

In May 2000, PAC participated in the first meeting, convened by South Africa, of what eventually became the Kimberley Process. Two months later, in July, engagement with the diamond industry led to an invitation to the Antwerp World Diamond Congress, which resulted in the creation of the World Diamond Council, the other observer group in the KP. Ian Smillie, PAC's Research Coordinator at the time, also took a leave of absence to participate in the second United Nations Security Council Expert Panel, examining the connection between weapons and diamonds in West Africa.

PAC was directly involved in all KP negotiating meetings between 2000 and 2002, and has participated in every major meeting since the official launch of the KPCS in 2003. PAC currently participates in KP working groups on monitoring, statistics, rules and procedures, and membership, and we have been part of review missions to more than 15 countries. We also coordinate the work of the KP Civil Society Coalition, a network of non-governmental organizations in Africa, Europe and North America which are working to end diamond-related conflict.

In recent years we have voiced our concerns at the way in which the KP has floundered when faced with clear cases of non-compliance by participant countries—particularly the examples of Venezuela and Zimbabwe. We draw two conclusions from this experience. The first is that the KP is too important to fail, and the prospect of a return to a world in which such a potentially dangerous commodity is unregulated is not an option. This is particularly true in a post-9/11 context in which diamonds lend themselves so easily to funding terrorist activities. The second is that the KP alone is an insufficient tool to respond to the myriad ways in which criminal elements seek to illicitly control, smuggle from, and terrorize in, diamond producing zones.

With this in mind, PAC’s response has been two-fold. Despite our grave reservations about the direction the KP has taken in recent years, we, along with our civil society partners, have redoubled efforts to push for structural reforms that will make the KP more adaptive and responsive to evolving criminality and any other challenges it may face. On many occasions we have crafted and championed ambitious reforms both inside and outside the KP.

PAC has also adopted a multi-faceted approach to creating a sustainable and responsibly managed diamond industry. It is detailed more fully here.