Through an African Lens: Reimagining responsibilities and definitions in a changing mining sector

By Claude Kabemba | October 30th, 2013
Kimberley Process conference report - Through an African Lens

Timed to coincide with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Intersessional meeting in Kimberley, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) in partnership with Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) and the International Crisis Group (ICG) hosted a policy workshop in Johannesburg in June 2013 under the theme ‘Through an African Lens: Reimagining responsibilities and definitions in a changing mining sector’. This report is based on the discussions at the workshop and contains a series of key recommendations (see below).

The workshop brought together 45 leading civil society activists, academics, and parliamentarians from Africa and beyond. The meeting was also attended by the Chairperson of the Kimberly Process, Ambassador Welile Nhlapo.

The workshop assessed the achievements and failures of the Kimberley Process (KP) and looked at the future of the KP given the changing environment in Africa. Two key questions guided the workshop: To what extent is the Kimberley Process still relevant to the contemporary governance needs of Africa? What role can Africa play in transforming the Kimberley Process?

The workshop proceeded under the guidance of Dr Claude Kabemba, Director of SARW, who stressed in his opening remarks that the agenda was to reflect, through an African lens, on the first 10 years of the KP, celebrate its achievements, identify its key challenges and weaknesses, and discuss its future. Although the workshop was attended by representatives from various sectors, Dr Kabemba pointed out that the platform was primarily created to allow African civil society actors to openly analyse and exchange ideas on the current status of the KP in Africa and its future.

In his introductory notes, Bernard Taylor, Executive Director of Partnership Africa Canada, provided some historical background on the creation of the KP. He mentioned the pivotal role played by the South African government in bringing together representatives from key diamond producing countries, civil society organisations and the international diamond industry to discuss the problems and challenges that were facing the global diamond industry at the time.

Taylor acknowledged the outstanding role played by civil society in focussing the attention of the international community on the link between diamonds and armed conflicts in Africa. Although diamonds were not the immediate cause of the conflicts in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in the 1990s, there was consensus among actors from government, civil society and the diamond industry that the gems intensified and prolonged these armed conflicts.

Since the conflict diamond issue was of political and economic interest to Africa and the diamond industry, it did not take long for the various actors to strike a deal, which led to the establishment of a diamond certification process: the KPCS.

Although the rough diamond industry is far more manageable than it was before, Taylor highlighted the need for urgent reforms of the Kimberley Process if the scheme is to remain relevant given the changing social, political and economic dynamics of society. Taylor was adamant that reforming the KP requires serious lobbying by key diamond actors such as South Africa. As an emerging market and regional powerhouse, the South African government has the necessary soft power to influence fellow KP participants in transforming the ailing mechanism.

To improve the operational nature of the KP, Taylor suggested that more attention should be focussed on artisanal mining since it is this informal practice that was instrumental in Africa’s diamond-linked civil wars in the 1990s. He commended and endorsed the 2012 Washington Declaration as a tool capable of transforming and formalising the so-called ‘illegal mining practises’. He argued that formalising artisanal mining can result in sustainable mining practises, increased transparency and accountability, the establishment of legitimate diamond revenue structures (which benefit both government and artisanal miners) and improved mining conditions.

In his conclusion, Taylor urged actors within the diamond fraternity to continue advocating for a more transparent diamond industry as well as for the promotion of the rights of artisanal miners and good governance in the extractive industry as a whole.

Key Recommendations

  1. The KP will remain a relevant mechanism as long as it is reformed to align it with the changing realities in our societies;
  2. The KP’s tripartite alliance needs to be reinforced and consolidated;
  3. The mandate of the KP needs to be expanded and this requires creating a stronger structure and enhancing its capacity;
  4. A reformed definition of conflict diamond should be situated within a Pan-African context and should address questions of human rights, which must involve both governments and businesses;
  5. The success of the KP depends on whether a state’s institutions are working and whether its democracy is sound;
  6. The harmonisation of regulations at regional level is fundamental to monitor the illegal export of diamonds;
  7. The relationship between diamonds and poverty needs to be properly integrated within the KP;
  8. The KP can learn from other international voluntary mechanisms; and
  9. The entire diamond value chain should be transparent and conflict free.

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