Global Witness’s KP withdrawal causes UK concern

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Jewellers seek answers over contentious diamonds coming to market.

Jewellery designers in the UK are said to be asking more questions about the current state of the Kimberley Process (KP) after Global Witness, one of the KP’s founding bodies, removed itself from the program earlier this week.

For the past 17 years Global Witness has run pioneering campaigns against natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses. Global Witness said the Kimberley Process has refused to evolve and has ignored the “clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny”, making the KP “increasingly outdated”.

Charmian Gooch, one of Global Witness’s founding directors said of its departure: “Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.

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“The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”

Global Witness has urged retailers, designers and consumers not to buy diamonds from the Marange area. “Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and industry should not supply them. All existing contracts in the Marange fileds should be cancelled,” said Gooch.

Now the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) and British Jewellers’ Association’s (BJA) Ethics Committee says jewellers in the UK are seeking answers to why controversial diamonds remain at the forefront of news, following both the news of Global Witness and the announcement last month that the KP is now allowing exports from certain Zimbabwean mines that cannot prove the provenance of the rough being imported.

Global Witness met with the National Association and the British Jeweller’s Association in May this year. The NAG and BJA formed a specialist Ethics Committee in March 2011, tasked with consulting between key UK and International trade and NGO bodies, as well as with the UK Government.

Global Witness "gave valuable information about the current crisis in Zimbabwe" and discussed the Kimberley process objectives but said is has had difficulty finding representatives for the artisanal miners. As a result, Global Witness argues, ensuring a balanced outcome for the diamond miners of Zimbabwe would be challenging.

Despite the withdrawal of Global Witness from the KP, the Ethics Committee says that the UK jewellery industry will continue to seek a decision from the World Diamond Council (WDC) on the matter.

However the WDC issued a statement following Global Witness’ withdrawal stating that its decision to walk away from the KP “will be counterproductive”.

“Global Witness’ withdrawal from the Kimberley Process is regrettable, particularly given the important progress that has been made in addressing the concerns they raise,” said a statement from the WDC.

In the meantime the NAG and BJA Ethics Committee recommends that jewellery retailers remain cautious when sourcing diamonds.

Michael Hoare, chief executive of the NAG said: “It’s important to retain consumer confidence in British made jewellery. The creation of the Ethics Committee is a commitment to effecting positive changes for the jewellery industry and ensuring that a regular dialogue between all parties is maintained.”

The Ethics Committee this week announced an evaluation of the UK response to the recent KP developments and will assess how UK jewellers can take to protect their integrity from the Zimbabwe stones which have attracted the label of Blood Diamonds KP critics .

Simon Rainer, chief executive of the BJA said: “The UK industry is at the forefront of traceability; working towards the creation of recognisable standards to define transparency in jewellery supply chains.”

In recent months the Ethics Committee has met with the Fairtrade Foundation and the London Bullion Market Exchange, where current standards to ensure best practice in both newly mined and refined or recycled gold were examined.

 

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