Are blood diamonds making a comeback?

How the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Works

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is designed to ensure that all diamond shipments are "conflict-free." It requires all participating governments -- 48 individual countries plus the European Community (EC) -- to establish legislation and internal monitoring bodies that regulate diamond mining, importing and exporting.

The goal of the KPCS is to make the rough diamond trade more transparent. Millions of dollars in diamonds can be easily smuggled across borders and over oceans to disguise their true origins.

Every single diamond shipment from a KPCS country must be sent in a tamper-proof container along with an official Kimberley Process certificate. A member country cannot accept a diamond shipment without it. KPCS member countries also can't import diamonds from or export to non-participating countries.

Participating governments must monitor diamond production in their countries. All diamond exports and imports must pass through a government export authority that tracks statistical data on a shipment's source and destination. This statistical tracking requirement is crucial: KPCS officials can detect anomalies by analyzing import and export data from participating countries. If a country exports more diamonds than it could possibly produce, conflict diamonds could be coming in from other nations.

The regulatory body that analyzes these statistics is the Kimberley Process Working Group on Statistics (WGS). There are similar working groups for monitoring and technical guidelines. Each working group is chaired by a member country, industry coalition or NGO. The entire organization is governed by a chairman from a participating country. The chair changes hands every year. The 2009 chair is from Namibia; a chairman from Israel will take over in 2010.

As we explain what the KPCS is, we should also note what it isn't. It isn't an independent international body, but a coalition of countries working together to eradicate conflict diamonds. The KPCS itself isn't a legally binding contract between member countries; the only enforceable laws related to the trade of conflict diamonds are written and enforced internally by the countries themselves. In fact, much of the recent criticism of the KPCS concerns its inability to enforce its own policies.

Some of the framework's most vocal critics are two of the organizations who helped draft it and continue to attend each biannual meeting: Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada. These NGOs have written several scathing reports and newspaper editorials accusing KPCS leadership of failing to act against egregious violations.

In June 2009, Ian Smillie, the research coordinator for Partnership Africa Canada who helped draft the KPCS, quit his PAC post, saying, "[The Kimberley Process] is in danger of becoming irrelevant and it's letting all manner of crooks off the hook" [source: Howden].

Who is Smillie talking about? Find out on the next page.