Are blood diamonds making a comeback?

How to Fix the Kimberley Process

Critics of the Kimberley Process say that its leadership has failed to respond adequately to the diamond smuggling and human rights crises in Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and elsewhere, and that the KPCS needs real power to enforce its own regulations.

For example, the KPCS chair finally arranged a review mission to visit Zimbabwe in the summer of 2009, but only met with representatives of Robert Mugabe's government, not humanitarian groups or NGOs. KPCS officials have yet to sanction Zimbabwe, revoke its membership or issue a report of its visit.

In Venezuela, the KPCS chair and several working group chairs paid a visit to the country in 2008 -- three years after Chavez separated his country from the KPCS -- and returned with no new information. Once again, Venezuela promised to cease all diamond production, imports and exports, while PAC reports confirm that registered miners are still producing and exporting diamonds. The KPCS has promised further "engagement" with Venezuela on the issue.

Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada have issued a formal set of recommendations for both participating countries and KPCS leadership designed to give the framework real teeth:

  • The KPCS needs to reinforce its commitment to protecting human rights. Traditionally, conflict diamonds are sold to fund rebel activities. In Zimbabwe's case, the KPCS leadership didn't know if it should intervene in what was ostensibly a government military operation [source: Howden].
  • The KPCS needs to create an interim suspension process to quickly sanction governments under investigation for serious violations. Venezuela should've been suspended immediately when it didn't respond to numerous compliance requests. Zimbabwe should also be suspended while the KPCS continues its investigation into the events at Marange and elsewhere.
  • Participating governments need to take KPCS requirements seriously and increase their enforcement efforts. A study of internal KPCS documents from 2004 to 2007 found that nearly two-thirds of member countries have failed to report even one violation [source: Global Witness]. This isn't evidence of a perfectly clean system; it's a sign of negligent enforcement.
  • The KPCS must apply the same minimum accountability standards to diamond cutting and polishing centers as importing and exporting authorities.
  • The KPCS needs to beef up its overall capacity to monitor and research the illegal flow of rough diamonds worldwide.

Even the most vocal critics of the KPCS believe that its framework is essential to combating the diamond smuggling networks that fund armed conflicts in some of the world's most politically unstable regions. If it were allowed to collapse, then nothing would stand in the way of future human rights catastrophes like the horrors of Sierra Leone.

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  • Evans, Ian. "UK firm bids to reclaim its rights to Zimbabwean 'blood diamond' field." The Guardian UK. October 4, 2009
  • Global Witness; Partnership Africa Canada. "Loupe Holes: Illicit Diamonds in the Kimberley Process." November 2008
  • Howden, Daniel. "The Return of Blood Diamonds." The Independent. June 25, 2009
  • International Mining. "Blood diamonds: Kimberley Process comes under fire." June 20, 2009
  • IRIN. "Credibility of Kimberley Process on the line, say NGOs." June 22, 2009
  • Kimberley Process. "Background"
  • Kimberley Process. "Kimberley Process Certification Scheme"
  • Partnership Africa Canada. "Diamonds, Death and Destruction: A History"
  • Partnership Africa Canada. "The Kimberley Process"
  • Partnership Africa Canada. "Zimbabwe: Massacre, Smuggling and KP Dithering." Other Facets. June 2009
  • Partnership Africa Canada. "Zimbabwe, Diamonds and the Wrong Side of History." March 2009
  • PBS Online NewsHour. "Conflict Diamonds Receive Attention from Hollywood." December 13, 2006