India chairs Kimberley Process meet on blood diamonds, Commerce Sec. inaugurates

New Delhi: The plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is being hosted by India, the present Kimberley Process (KP) Chair, from 18 to 22 November in New Delhi. The plenary meeting was inaugurated by Commerce Secretary, Anup Wadhawan.

The Kimberley Process is a joint initiative involving governments, the international diamond industry and civil society to stem the flow of ‘conflict diamonds’. Conflict diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments. It is also described in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

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In 1998, certain rebel movements in Africa were selling, among other things, illegally obtained diamonds – known as conflict diamonds – to fund their wars against legitimate governments. With a view to find ways to stop trade in conflict diamonds, the world’s diamond industry, United Nations, governments, and leading NGOs came together in November 2002 at Interlaken, where the final draft of the Kimberley Process was ratified by more than 50 nations. The KPCS came into effect from 1 January, 2003, and evolved into an effective mechanism for stopping the trade in conflict diamonds.

As per KPCS, each shipment of rough diamonds being exported and imported by crossing an international border be transported in a tamper-proof container and accompanied by a validated Kimberley Process Certificate. The shipment can only be exported to a co-participant country in the KPCS. No uncertified shipments of rough diamonds are permitted to enter a participant country.

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Speaking at the inaugural session of the plenary meet, Wadhawan said that India, as a founding member of KP, has been actively involved in the development of KP as an important protocol in the trade of diamonds which has ensured that 99.8% of the diamonds in the world are conflict-free.

He further added that we need to keep KP efficient and effective as a process to maintain this conflict diamond free status. He informed the gathering that India is committed to make this process stronger in terms of further strengthened administration and implementation, efficient in terms of delivery of what it promises, more transparent and empathetic towards the living standards of people who are dependent on the production, trade and manufacture of diamonds.

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In his address, Wadhawan stated that India has given leadership to address the issue of differentiation between natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds and will take further initiatives to have better differentiation and ensure responsible business on this front. He also said that India has always advocated a consensus-based decision-making process as it ensures that even the weakest voice is heard.

Wadhawan informed that India is sensitive to the issues and challenges of artisanal and small scale mining and acknowledges the contribution made by the KP members, observers and agencies for their upliftment. He added that we need to continue supporting artisanal and small scale mining countries with capacity building, technical assistance and education on valuation, differentiation between natural and lab-grown diamonds, the importance of legal and formal mining practices.

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Currently, India exports around USD 24 billion worth of cut and polished diamonds. It is expected that India will reach an export target of USD 1 trillion in the coming years and the gem and jewellery sector – particularly cut and polished diamonds – will contribute significantly to achieve this target.

The importance of KPCS is immense to India as more than one million people are directly employed by the diamond industry. The industry also plays a pivotal role in sustaining livelihoods of these people.

During the inaugural session meetings of different working groups and committees of the KPCS were held. Three special forums regarding financial inclusion and women empowerment through sustainable livelihood creation, Diamond Industry – Adapting to Change, and Diamond Origin and Identification were also held during the plenary meeting.

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India is one of the founder members of KPCS and is the Chair of the Kimberley Process for the year 2019. India had earlier chaired KPCS in 2008. Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, B.B. Swain, has been designated as KP Chair 2019 and Rupa Dutta, Economic Adviser, Department of Commerce has been designated as India’s KP Focal Point. 

The inaugural session was attended by Commerce Secretary, Anup Wadhawan; Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, B.B. Swain and KP Chair, Stephane Fischler. President, World Diamond Council, Shamiso Mtisi, Coordinator of Civil Society Coalition, officials from Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and representatives of the diamond industry were also present.

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In accordance with the KP Core document, the work of the Kimberley Process is carried out through its seven working groups and committees, which regularly discuss issues through teleconferences and exchange of emails, and meet twice a year for in-person meeting at intersessional and plenary meets organized by the KP Chair.

Further, if required, other in-person meetings can also be organized by the Working Group Chair. The KPCS works on principle of consensus and all the decisions are taken in Plenary session or through written procedure unanimously by all members.

At present, KPCS has 55 members representing 82 countries including the European Union with 28 members. The Kimberley Process is chaired on a rotating basis by participating countries. KP Vice Chair is generally elected by KP Plenary each year who becomes the Chair in the next year. India is the current Chair of KPCS with Russian Federation as Vice Chair for the year 2019.

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Since 2003, India has been actively participating in the KPCS process and is a member of all working groups of KP. Department of Commerce is the nodal department and the GJEPC is designated as the KPCS Importing and Exporting Authority in India. GJEPC is responsible for issuing KP Certificates and is also the custodian of KP Certificates received in the country.

The closing session of the KPCS will be held on 22 November 2019 in New Delhi and India will hand over the KP Chair to the Russian Federation.

It is worth noting that the Kimberley Process has recently received criticism from various quarters of the media and society. According to Global Witness, the KPCS has ultimately failed to stem the flow of conflict diamonds, leading them to abandon the scheme in 2011. One of the first organisations to report the link between the mineral industry and conflict, Global Witness was an official observer to the process at its outset. But the organisation walked away several years ago after the scheme authorised exports from two companies operating in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe.

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The ID Staff

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