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This Herald article discusses the inter-sessional meeting of the diamond industry’s Kimberley Process that started in Washington DC on June 4. Since its conception, the Kimberly Process has been criticized for its lack of transparency and lack of independent monitoring. In an attempt at reform, the US Ambassador chairing the meeting has announced Washington’s determination to redefine "conflict diamonds” in order to include human rights violations by governments and not just “rebel” movements. African governments, however, are opposing this "human rights" discourse that Western governments are likely to use as a tool for regime-change campaigns. (Herald)
The diamonds trade not only fuels conflicts in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, but leads to poverty, social inequalities, human exploitation and environmental degradation in the Global South. Children are particularly vulnerable as child labor in the mining industry is increasing, leading to labor abuses and mistreatments. Following its withdrawal from the Kimberley Process, Global Witness points out that the KP mechanism is utterly inefficient and has failed to put an end to the blood diamonds trade. (AlterNet)
In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), one of the Taliban’s operating bases, the Pakistani government has launched a program to promote economic development through the mining of gems and other valuable minerals. This initiative may offer new opportunities to jobless young people and deter them from joining the Taliban. This project includes the training of youths and the possibility for them to be employed later on. While this example shows that natural resources and mineral wealth could also be a means for governments to develop peace, it remains to be seen whether Pakistan can escape the “resource curse”. (IPS)
This article questions the claim that US measures, aimed at controlling the sources of minerals in the DRC, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, are detrimental to the population. While the author acknowledges that these measures may economically impact Congolese artisanal miners, he argues that natural resources also play a harmful role in war-torn areas. Armed groups trade these minerals to buy weapons, thus prolonging the war. Controlling and restricting conflict minerals remain vital to put an end to the ongoing crisis. Economic activities should promote peace and stability, not fuel wars. (The guardian)
Documents from the Kimberly Process reveal that the international diamond watchdog has urged Zimbabwe to combat smuggling of Marange diamonds to Mozambique. The Kimberly Process has also asked Zimbabwe to allow civil rights organizations full access to Marange. The Zimbabwe government has yet to comment on these developments and speculation continues that the diamond smuggling is funding President Mugabe's allies and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front party. (Bloomberg)
Profits from the diamond mines in the CAR have never reached the vast majority of the population, but things have become worse in recent years under the government of President Francois Bozize. The Bozize regime maintains strict control over the diamond industry, imposing high taxes on exports to line its own pockets. This encourages a black market for diamonds, which allows rebel groups to fund their activities and recruit impoverished workers. This International Crisis Group report analyzes the problem in the CAR and provides a series of recommendations for the CAR government and oversight groups. (International Crisis Group)
Marange, the largest diamond mine in Zimbabwe, has been scrutinized by diamond industry watchdogs for its abysmal worker conditions, related violence and missing profits. Marange diamonds are supposed to be certified by the Kimberley Process to prevent corruption and violence, but controversy has surrounded the case. With the sale of Marange diamonds still halted, Kimberley Process monitor Abbey Chikane returned to Zimbabwe and certified Marange diamonds for future export. The Kimberley Process appears relatively useless to prevent the diamonds from entering the world market. The diamond industry refuses to take a more pro-active stand against known conflict diamonds. (Global Witness)
Actress Mia Farrow's testimony before the Special Court for Sierra Leone contradicted supermodel Naomi Campbell's previous statement. Campbell claimed that she received two or three "dirty-looking stones" at a party hosted by Nelson Mandela, and she did not know who sent them. But Farrow's testimony suggests that Campbell actually received a "huge diamond" from the former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Mr. Taylor has denied all 11 charges brought against him, which include the crimes of murder, rape and turning children into soldiers. Campbell's role is critical to the trial because she may have the best evidence connecting Mr. Taylor's crimes in Sierra Leone to Liberia's most valuable natural resource: diamonds. (Worldpress)
Britain is leading a campaign to oust Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, stemming from fears that diamonds could offset the pressure imposed by the pervasive economic sanctions. However, sanctioning diamonds could be ruinous because the gems could transform the economic fortunes of this poverty ridden country. Taxes and revenues raised from diamonds could inject wealth to struggling state-owned companies, schools, hospitals and transport. (allAfrica.com)
The Zimbabwean government has accused De Beers, the region's largest diamond exporter, of illegally appropriating tons of diamonds from the Chiadzwa mining fields. The government claims that over a period of fifteen years, De Beers looted the region whilst asserting that they had not discovered gems in the region. The illegal mining has deprived the poor South African country of billions of dollars. (Zimguardian.com)
A runway is being constructed alongside the controversial Chiadzwa diamond mines in Zimbabwe. Some say that the airstrip will be used for the direct exchange of diamonds for weapons; China is believed to be the main trade partner. This worrying discovery comes at a turbulent time in Zimbabwe, as the government coalition is on the verge of collapse. (Daily Telegraph)
A steady influx of unlawful diamonds, from Zimbabwe to Mozambique, is providing fresh wealth to border towns previously plagued by poverty and malnutrition. The stones come from the often controversial mines in Zimbabwe where the military force villagers to dig for stones. (IRIN)
Rwanda sends hundreds of fighters into Congo to support the Tutsi rebels and to expand its power over Congolese natural resources like coltan, cassirite and diamonds. Businesspersons, the Rwandan government and the Congolese rebel movement, led by former Rwandan army official Laurent Nkunda, take part in the illegal mineral trade between Congo and Rwanda, fuelling the Congolese war. (New York Times)
This Inter Press Service article states that mining deals between the government of Sierra Leone and diamond exporters are disadvantageous to local mining areas since the exporters only pay 0,75 percent of their profit to the local population. Sierra Leone set up a presidential task force in 2008 to review the country's mining policies, but local civil society organizations argue that the task force fails to hold diamond exporters accountable for the exploitive contracts they force upon the government.
This Bonn International Center for Conversion report argues that the 2005 Security Council diamond embargo is unable to diminish the illegal diamond trade in Cote d'Ivoire or stop fueling the violent conflict between Ivorian rebels and the army. Belgium, Dubai and Israel still purchase conflict diamonds from Cote d'Ivoire since the monitoring system remains weak and because UN forces are unable to protect the country's diamond mining zones.
The European Union joined African countries in establishing the Kimberly Process (KP) in 2002 to deal with diamonds that fuel conflict. Two years later, DR Congo, a KP member, smuggled diamonds to the EU and Middle East, which resulted in its expulsion from the KP. The DR Congo has made improvements controlling its illegal trade of rough diamonds and re-joined the KP. Soon it will resume exporting diamonds. However, the Kimberly Process still has concerns about Congo's porous border and "blood diamonds." (Voice of America)
The Security Council renewed the mandate of the Group of Experts in Cote d'Ivoire until 2008, to monitor sanctions against the illegal trade of diamonds and arms. The Council demanded that the government, civil society and the UN Mission (UNOCI) cooperate and supply information to the experts. The Security Council will only review the restrictive actions after government and rebel parties have fully instituted the Ouagadougou peace agreement. The Council also announced that it will impose sanctions against individuals that represent a menace to the peace process and violate human rights in the country. (UN News)
To reform Liberia's natural resource sector, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf created institutions like the Foreign Concession Review Committee, which evaluate contracts with companies such as Mittal Steel and Firestone Rubber. But to ensure that resources fuel development and not conflict, Liberia should analyze the past role of resources in its economy. Further, governmental agencies should form a cohesive position on management of Liberia's gold, diamonds, timber and other resource assets. (Partnership Africa Canada and the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia)
Although the UN Security Council noted Liberia's progress on implementing the Kimberly Accords and lifted sanctions on Liberian diamonds in April, the government has yet to legalize the diamond trade in the country. To prevent diamond sales from fueling future conflict, the Liberian government must reissue licenses, and train officials to monitor the diamond trade via ten regional offices. Additionally, the government must minimize illegal subsistence mining which still occurs. The government promises to invest diamond proceeds in schools, roads and hospitals.(Integrated Regional Information Networks)
The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to lift a ban on Liberian diamond exports imposed in 2001 under Resolution 1753. UK Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry says that the resolution shows recognition of the progress that the Liberian government has made in the certification of diamonds, showing their origin. Liberia is still subject to an arms embargo, a travel ban on certain individuals, and an asset freeze against former President Charles Taylor and his top officials. (Times – India)
The US has drafted a Security Council resolution lifting the diamond embargo that the Security Council imposed on Liberia since 2001. UK Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry says that provided the Liberian government has been applying rigorously the Kimberley certification system, most importantly making progress in the certification of its rough diamonds, the resolution should be passed by the end of April. (Independent Online – South Africa)
The Analyst questions when the Liberian government will effectively institutionalize the Kimberley process and meet preconditions stipulated by the UN Sanctions Committee in order to lift sanctions on diamonds. The government must ensure a transparent certification system of rough diamonds. The Security Council has now extended the diamond sanctions under which all states are forbidden to directly or indirectly import all rough diamonds from Liberia to their territory, but has lifted sanctions on timber, praising the Government's forestry management.
The UN Security Council has renewed its diamond embargo against Liberia as the country has not demonstrated sufficient internal control necessary for certification. The African country's lucrative mines must wait until June 2007 for the Council to review the situation. Yet, Liberian officials warned that despite government efforts, illegal diamond mining takes place in the country, which opens the door for smuggling. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
By a unanimous resolution, the UN Security Council extended the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, as well as the arms and diamond embargoes. A recent report revealed that diamond smuggling via Mali and Ghana continued despite the rebels denial of violating the embargo. While Ghana may face suspension from the Kimberley certification scheme, Mali does not risk sanctions as it is not a member of the Kimberley Process. (Reuters)
This piece from the Christian Science Monitor underlines the issue of diamonds smuggled diamonds, which enable "conflict diamonds" to reach the international trading market despite UN embargoes. The diamond industry's practice of "don't ask, don't tell" transactions "gave the industry plausible deniability," the author says. Yet, when the UN imposes sanctions on countries, such as Sierra Leone, diamonds exports from neighboring countries rapidly exceed natural resources' limits, raising questions about how effective UN embargoes really are.
In response to the recent fraud scandals surrounding the certification of diamonds from conflict regions, De Beers, a major diamonds industrial group, has joined the mounting criticisms of the Kimberley Process. De Beers, also fearing the fallout from the Hollywood movie "The Blood Diamonds," stresses the need to enforce diamond trade controls and to address the deficiencies of the Kimberley Process. With its statement, De Beers backs NGOs' call on governments and industries to effectively enforce Kimberley regulations. (Reuters)
After the UN Security Council lifted the sanctions on timber, Liberia hopes the UN body will do the same for the sanctions on diamonds. The Liberian government has redoubled its efforts to meet the UN requirements for the removal of the sanctions, including establishing a Task Force to ensure full adherence to the Kimberley process. Yet, the Liberian government still falls short of meeting all requirements. Liberian authorities have failed to freeze individuals' assets, such as those of former President Charles Taylor. (Analyst)
Despite a UN embargo, brokers in Ghana and Mali trade millions worth of diamonds originating from mines in the rebel-held north of the Ivory Coast. Banned diamonds reach in this way the international market, a UN report said. Diamond smuggling provides a source of finance to rebels' activities threatening to breach the fragile peace in the Western African country. This report unveils serious flaws in the Kimberley process established to control the trade of blood diamonds, by means of a certification system for rough diamonds and national import/export standards. (Guardian)
The diamond industry has begun a US$15 million campaign to safeguard its lucrative Christmas trade from what it fears will be a negative publicity resulting from a forthcoming Hollywood film about the trade in African "conflict diamonds." The industry claims that the Kimberley Process has virtually eliminated conflict diamonds, which now make up less than one percent of those sold. Yet, conflicts diamonds fueled recent African civil wars, such as in the Ivory Coast. Some experts say the Kimberley Process lacks internal control. "There is lots of cross-border smuggling. The control systems just aren't strong enough." (Guardian)
The Liberian government and the UN Mission in Liberia have failed to reintegrate ex-combatants into the Liberian economy. As a result, ex-fighters have found jobs in the illegal mining and logging industries. According to a report by Global Witness, the upsurge in illegal diamond extraction and export, which are in violation of UN sanctions, could fuel a return to warlordism.
Recognizing the shortcomings of the Kimberley Process, the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) creates an integrated framework to address underlying problems of diamond-financed wars in Africa. The DDI, a cross-sector initiative that includes representatives from NGOs, donor communities and the diamond industry, could help solve "political, social and economic challenges" of conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations.
Although Angola's civil war ended in 2002 and the Security Council subsequently lifted sanctions on the country, its diamond industry still fosters violence and human rights abuses against Angolans and foreigners. A new report compiled by civil rights campaigner Rafael Marques and lawyer Rui Falcao de Campos finds "only a privileged few benefit from the region's diamond wealth." This elite secures its wealth through "murders, beatings and arbitrary detentions," leading the report's authors to call for a boycott of Angolan gems. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
The Ottawa-based Partnership Africa Canada has released the second edition of its Diamond Industry Annual Review for Sierra Leone, which praises the increased transparency of the country's gold and diamonds department but warns that diamond trade earnings don't benefit the country's impoverished population. With the Revolutionary United Front no longer in control of the main mining areas, legal diamond exports have almost doubled. The report notes, however, that the improvements mainly result from external factors such as the introduction of the Kimberley process rather than internal curbs on diamond mining and smuggling. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)