In Court Of Public Opinion: Kimberley System vs Accountability & TransparencyFebruary 19, 09
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is not a private business belonging to Aunt Susie or Uncle Marcus. The members are representatives of 49 governments who take the position of their respective governments. They are and must be held accountable for their actions.
Though the very existence of the KPCS has rightfully been heralded as a magnificent achievement, it is slowly degenerating into an anti-democratic, non-accountable and non-transparent mechanism. Its key members spend great efforts fighting the dissemination of relevant feedback to their constituencies and stakeholders as a way to mask their inability to act responsibly and do what they are supposed to do.
As such, the KPCS is evolving in ways that will gradually erode its trust and standing within and outside its immediate stakeholder communities. I am writing these lines not just as journalist but as a member of the World Diamond Council, the body that has observer status in the governmental initiative.
The KPCS framework was created to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds and their disastrous humanitarian consequences. The sole reason for the industry to accept and support the system is because of the belief that it would contribute to separating our product from human atrocities and in so doing ensure the integrity of the trade and help maintain consumer confidence. Suffice it to say, our industry did not embrace the KPCS out of an eagerness to establish a worldwide bureaucracy, or to voluntarily add to diamond transactions costs, or to create a new international elite of public officials flying around the globe to meet in endless conferences.
Actually, the industry fought alongside the NGOs to get the KPCS created (though the NGOs started the ball rolling). Just review some of the historical documents of lobbying activities of diamond producers with legislators in
The KPCS must realize that, at the end of the day, if it “messes up,” it not only hurts those people who are facing diamond-related humanitarian crises but also the industry as a whole. The more “mess” the KPCS makes, the more likely it is to lose industry and consumer trust in the mechanism. We are now reaching the point in which industry and NGOs need to either fight to make the KPCS framework truly effective, or, alternatively, to set in motion a mechanism to abolish it – as it has outlived its purpose and its efficacy. Our industry has enough problems today without a discredited KPCS adding to them.
KPCS's Fundamental Problems
Publications like IDEX Online, Diamond Intelligence Briefs or Other Facets (published by Partnership Africa Canada) occasionally publish so-called inside information about the KPCS. For instance, the Diamond Intelligence Briefs team recently wrote about a KPCS working group conference that dealt with the issue of widespread smuggling in some KPCS-member countries. In the same article, we also reported about related ethical questions discussed within the relevant working group about the KPCS’s continued cooperation with member countries that are committing atrocities in their respective diamond mining areas. These are fundamental issues that should be the sole focus of the KPCS.
The direct triggers to the KPCS working group discussions were
But the near-paralysis of the KPCS is better illustrated by its treatment of
But our problem isn’t
Disclosing Government Positions
We truly thought we were doing the KPCS and the industry a great service by reporting in considerable detail the position taken by the respective government representatives in the discussions on these diamond-related ethical and humanitarian issues. Instead, our publication evoked some weird reactions from KPCS authorities.
We were accused of having reported on positions “leaked” by KPCS members. The KPCS would like us to believe there is one “consensus” position – as if the individual country views are irrelevant. They are not. This underscore a fundamental problem of the KPCS, which ought to be said once and for all: The KPCS falsely claims that it makes decisions on a consensus basis. That is not true. Its definition of “consensus” is “unanimity.” A 49-member organization that represents 75 countries can never achieve unanimity on any major issues. This form of decision making will eventually make the organization toothless and meaningless.
For instance, most KPCS members were united in their desire to expel
What has happened within the KPSC is that a too-strict requirement of consensus has effectively given a small self-interested minority group, or sometimes a single country, veto power over decisions. Decision by consensus may take an extremely long time to occur, and thus may be intolerable for urgent matters.
It is the wrong form of governance for the KPCS. I reckon there may be some inevitable constraints in changing this, but this only enhances the importance of transparency and accountability. The individual positions of the governments must not be hidden in closets.
The Role of the Press
The chairman of the group of Technical Advisors to the KPCS sent an email to the KPCS Secretariat complaining about issue 536 of Diamond Intelligence Briefs “that shamelessly puts almost the entire (restricted) report of the [Working Group on Monitoring] WGM teleconference on Zimbabwe on its cover page!” He then distributed the copyrighted article to a large group of people. We thank him for the publicity.
This technical advisor (not representing a formal member of the KPCS, nor representing the WDC in this instance) claims that “KP’s capacity to strive for consensus will be greatly reduced if any comment or remark during the internal deliberations of [Working Groups] WGs is threatened to be broadcasted outside the destined readership. More, in the end, these organized leaks threaten the operational capacity of the KPCS and put a dent in its credibility.”
In support of this view, the chairman of the Kimberley Process Working Group on Monitoring, Stéphane Chardon, has called on his colleagues to ensure that “appropriate internal controls are in place” to avoid such occurrences (such as us publishing what he considers leaked information). Apparently, there are still some government officials who are unaware of something called the “Freedom of Information Act,” and a bundle of other requirements that force transparency. These tools shouldn’t be needed. There are certain things that should by now have become self-evident to those leading the KPCS administrative wheels.
With all due respect, we recommend to Stéphane, whose working group is essentially doing quite an effective job, to wake up and realize this is the 21st century, where information flow is a way of life. My colleague
The diamond industry and the diamond trade press are part of the KPCS constituency and are, essentially, stakeholders of the KPCS. Instead of fighting leaks, Stéphane might become more communicative and more accountable to the stakeholders – in the interest of the KPCS itself. Against this backdrop, it is going to be a challenge for the new KPCS chairman, the rather energetic deputy minister Bernhard Esau from
Hiding behind Secrecy
Some of the countries blocking decisions that fly straight in the face of the moral, ethical and humanitarian principles we all believe in and for which the KPCS stands, do so because they enjoy the comfort of knowing that no one will find out. These particular countries find comfort in the fact that publications like ours are vulnerable and can be silenced. The “threat” posed by our reporting is that we will actually disclose who says what.
It is about time the 49 governmental representatives understand that good governance means that diamond industry participants can see the positions stated and maintained within the KPCS by their respective governments. For heaven’s sake, there should be nothing secretive about any of this. However, so far, the KPCS has abused this so-called confidentiality by allowing governments to defend positions they would not dare to defend if scrutinized in public.
It is bad enough we see a most unhelpful politicization of KPCS’s decision-making process. It is even worse that some members have apparently forgotten what the initiative is all about. While we in the trade press probably can’t prevent unproductive, if not self-destructive, behavior, we can make doubly sure that those KPCS members whose self-serving actions prevent the process from fulfilling its mandate cannot hide behind a curtain of secrecy and confidentiality.
Fighting Leaks and Disclosures
We want to make it unequivocally clear. The KPCS is not planning a nuclear attack. Nor is it involved in any clandestine activity to overthrow governments. It is a monitoring system of rough diamond movements that should be proud of transparency, that should promote diamond good governance in every diamond country, and that aims to break any connection between diamonds and atrocities. These are all noble objectives; they are nothing to be ashamed of and they certainly don’t involve anything that requires the member countries to hush things up behind the scenes. The KPCS should fight the causes of atrocities and the causes of widespread smuggling; it should fight corruption and abuse within the rough diamond global management.
Instead, the KPCS is fighting “leaks,” disclosures, the press and NGOs, which are basically the system’s strongest allies. I hope that our journalist colleagues are not intimidated. (The Diamond Intelligence Briefs will continue to bring out into the open the important positions – leaked or otherwise.) We are all supportive of the KPCS but we will also speak out whenever we believe it is wrong – actually, we commit ourselves to do anything to help the KPCS to get it right.
The KPCS must accept that greater transparency leads to greater public trust in its governance, to enhanced compliance, and to a greater likelihood that atrocities, corruption, and smuggling in the global rough diamond management will be reduced or completely eradicated.