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The Kimberley Process: Pros, Cons, & Alternatives

There are few feelings quite as pure as the awe and admiration inspired by the perfect diamond. For centuries, diamonds have been symbolic of love and beauty, and have brought happiness to countless couples as they commit to spending their lives together. Unfortunately, behind the shine can sometimes lurk an origin that no one should be happy about. 

Throughout the world, unsafe mining practices and illegal trading have created a serious problem within the diamond industry. Conflict diamonds (sometimes also called blood diamonds), are diamonds that are illegally traded and are used to fund conflict in certain war-torn parts of the world. The diamonds are often mined using slave labor, and miners are exposed to extremely dangerous working conditions. And, unfortunately, once these diamonds enter the market, they can be difficult to distinguish from legitimate stones.

That’s why the Kimberley Process was created: to give diamond buyers a way to ensure that their diamonds aren’t tarnished by atrocity. But what is the Kimberley Process? And does it actually make a difference? 

What is the Kimberley Process?

Around 150 years ago, large-scale diamond mining began in Kimberley, South Africa. Since then, Kimberley has been nicknamed “Diamond City” and is widely thought of as the mined diamond capital of the world.

In May 2000, a group of diamond-producing states in Africa met in Kimberley to discuss solutions to stop the trade of conflict diamonds. These African states wanted to make sure that diamond purchases around the world weren’t financing the violence and cruelty caused by rebel movements. A few months later, the United Nations created a resolution that supported the creation of an international certification process. 

It took a few years to get the logistics between governments, civil society organizations, and the international diamond industry sorted out. But by November 2002, a solution to certify that diamonds were conflict-free was finally in place. They called this the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) or Kimberley Process for short. In a nutshell, the Kimberley Process’ purpose is to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond-trade market.

How Does the Kimberley Process Work? 

In order to know if the Kimberley Process is doing its job, it’s important to understand how the process itself works. And the first order in understanding the process is understanding who’s involved. 

The Kimberley Process hierarchy involves a rotating chair position that has been filled by countries such as South Africa, Canada, Russia, India, Israel, Botswana, and others. These members gather twice a year for plenary meetings. They have multiple other meetings that involve sub-committees and break-off groups that address specific issues and topics. 

The Kimberley Process is currently representing 81 countries around the world and is open to all countries that are willing to comply with the process guidelines. The guidelines that the Kimberley Process imposes on its members aren’t a walk in the park. A few of the minimum guidelines that members of the KPCS must abide by are: 

  • They must put in place national legislation and institutions.
  • They must implement export and import controls.
  • They must commit to transparency and the exchange of statistical data.
  • Participants of the Kimberley Process can only legally trade with other participants who have met the minimum guidelines instituted by the KPCS. 
  • International shipments of rough diamonds must be accompanied by a KP certificate that guarantees that they are conflict-free.

These guidelines are strictly enforced to ensure that the Kimberley Process and its associating members are doing all they can to eliminate conflict diamonds from the market. But these guidelines don’t come without a little (or a lot) of controversy. 

Pros and Cons of the Kimberley Process

No diamond can be 100 percent flawless. Similarly, no plan to eradicate conflict-diamond trade comes without any issues. The Kimberley Process has done a great job in bringing down the crime rates and lowering the amount of money and supplies that rebel groups in Angola and Sierra Leone are receiving. But the values and morals that the Kimberley Process stands for have shifted over time. So, how do the pros of the Kimberley Process stack up against the cons?

Pros

An organization backed by a morally sound mission will generally have a lot of pros, and the Kimberley Process holds true to that. The obvious advantage is that the process has significantly limited the number of conflict-diamonds on the open market. In fact, about 99.8% of the rough stones on the open market are accounted for by the KPCS. This has saved lives, created jobs, and supported governments in areas where conflict-diamond trading has traditionally supported armed rebellion. 

Cons

The Kimberley Process has been called into question in recent years due to its lack of transparency and a number of potential loopholes. For example, consider the Marange Valley conflict. 

Transparency— Marange Valley

Marange Valley is home to more than $800 billion worth of diamond fields. These fields were discovered in 2006 by a diamond exploration company. However, in 2008, the Mugabe government (named after the Zimbabwean President at the time, Robert Mugabe) took control of the fields, killing over 200 people in the process. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme continued to authorize the sale of these Marange Valley diamonds, dispute the atrocities.

This brought forth a major flaw in the Kimberley Process — a lack of transparency. The terms of the Kimberley certification process focus on the need to prevent the mining and distribution of conflict diamonds, leaving broader issues like poor working conditions, child labor exploitation, and cruel labor policies unaddressed. In a nutshell, the Kimberley Process focuses on the mining distribution of diamonds and tends to turn the other cheek when it comes to human rights and worker exploitation. The Kimberley Process seems to identify conflict diamonds as diamonds that contribute to rebel movements, rather than diamonds that are involved in conflict and human suffering. 

Smuggling

A certification from the Kimberley Process doesn’t apply to one particular stone, but rather, a collection of rough diamonds that are cut and shipped all over the world. This opens the door for smugglers to hide conflict diamonds within shipments of “conflict-free” Kimberley Process diamonds. As such, corruption and smuggling are still a part of the diamond trade. 

Simply put, while the Kimberley Process has been successful in slowing down the conflict-diamond trade, it’s not perfect. There’s still no way to know with 100% assurity whether a Kimberley Process diamond is truly conflict-free. 

How To Ensure Your Diamond is 100% Conflict-Free

For two people who are beginning their life-long journey together, the diamond that symbolizes this union should be just as pure. The problem is that even with the Kimberley Process, there’s no way to ensure that a mined diamond doesn’t come from a background of bloodshed. 

But don’t fear. There is one solution that will give you that satisfaction and assurance that the diamond you are purchasing is conflict-free. And that’s through lab-grown diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds that are created inside a lab rather than a mine. They have the exact same chemical makeup as mined diamonds. Additionally, they are eco-friendly, ethically sourced, and competitively priced. 

Clean Origin is a top retailer of lab-created diamonds, offering a range of styles, cuts, shapes, and settings. With a Clean Origin lab-grown diamond, you’ll get to enjoy the unmatched beauty and shine that only comes from a real diamond, without the fear that you might be supporting conflict. 

The Kimberley Process represents the good that countries around the world can accomplish when they work together to end suffering. But it’s not always enough. To stop the spread of conflict diamonds, individuals need to do their part. Lab-grown diamonds provide a 100% conflict-free solution, without forcing buyers to settle for non-diamond simulants.

Go beyond the Kimberley Process, with a beautiful diamond that you can always feel proud to wear.


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