NGO pulls out of 'failing' blood diamonds scheme

5th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A campaign group which helped found the Kimberley Process to stop the trade in so-called blood diamonds announced on Monday it was pulling out of the scheme, saying it had failed.

Global Witness, which helped set up the voluntary certification scheme to cut the links between diamonds and conflict in 2003, said the recent decision to allow Zimbabwe to sell gems tainted by army killings was the final straw.

"The decision to endorse unlimited diamond exports from named companies in the Marange region of Zimbabwe -- the scene of mass killings by the national army -- has turned an international conflict prevention mechanism into a cynical corporate accreditation scheme," said founding director Charmian Gooch.

Kimberley approval was meant to guarantee that stones often given as a symbol of love are not used to fund some of Africa's most brutal civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Since 2003, the scheme has gathered governments, industry and activists into a global regulator that makes decisions by consensus.

But the scheme looked shaky when Global Witness and a number of other groups walked out of a Kimberley meeting in June after the chairman gave the green light to two companies to sell diamonds from the Marange fields.

"We now have to recognise that this scheme, begun with so many good intentions, has done much that is useful but ultimately has failed to deliver," Gooch said.

He added: "Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes."

Global Witness said it had failed in dealing with the trade in conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast; in managing what it alleged were "blatant breaches" of the rules by Venezuela; and in stopping diamonds fuel corruption and violence in Zimbabwe.

"It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering, whereby the dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems," the NGO said.

Gooch said that the failure of the Kimberley Process proved that such voluntary schemes could not work when companies and countries competed for mineral resources, and urged governments to put its standards into law.

More than 75 of the world's diamond producing, trading and manufacturing countries participate in the Kimberley Process, which requires member states to pass national legislation and set up export and import controls for diamonds.

Global Witness has written to the chairman of the process announcing its withdrawal as an official observer, although it said it would still work with other NGOs to reform the sector.

© 2011 AFP

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