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Conflict diamonds & the Kimberley Process

Background and History on the Issue

What are Conflict Diamonds?

In 1998, Global Witness, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), made the world aware of the fact that certain rebel movements in Africa were selling, amongst other things, illegally obtained diamonds (known as conflict diamonds) to fund their wars against legitimate and internationally recognised governments.

What has been done to stop the trade in conflict diamonds?

In 1998, and then in 2000, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, two NGO’s from the UK and Canada respectively, once again brought the issue of conflict diamonds to the world’s attention. The diamond industry immediately began cooperating with the United Nations (UN) and engaged with governments and leading NGO’s to seek ways to halt the trade in conflict diamonds.

Progress to achieve this shared objective began in earnest in May 2000 when the South African government convened a meeting in Kimberley for all interested parties to meet and discuss a way forward. The meeting brought together, for the first time, governments, industry and NGO’s. What followed was a series of meetings, hosted by governments from around the world, which came to be known as the Kimberley Process. In December 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to support the process.

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme & the System of Warranties

In order to fully combat the scourge of conflict diamonds, on November 5, 2002, fifty-two governments ratified and adopted the final Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. In essence, these countries have agreed that they will only allow the import and export of rough diamonds if they come from or are being exported to another Kimberley Process participant. South Africa is one of the participants.

Rough Diamond Exports

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme requires that each shipment of rough diamonds being exported and crossing an international border be transported in a tamper-resistant container and accompanied by a government-validated Kimberley Process Certificate. Each certificate should be resistant to forgery, uniquely numbered and include data describing the shipment’s content.

The shipment can only be exported to a co-participant country in the Kimberley Process. No uncertified shipments of rough diamonds will be permitted to enter a participant’s country.

Once a certified shipment has entered its country of destination it may be traded and mixed with other parcels of rough diamonds as long as all subsequent transactions are accompanied by the necessary warranties (see below).

Failure to adhere to these procedures can lead to confiscation or rejection of parcels and/or criminal sanctions.

Any rough diamonds being re-exported will also require Kimberley Process Certificates, which will be issued in the exporting country. These re-exports can comprise any combination of rough diamonds that have been previously imported through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Exporting polished diamonds does not require a Kimberley Process Certificate. This is dealt with under the System of Warranties.