Take Stock – June 29

One of the leading architects of the international battle against “blood diamonds” has quit the global scheme that was supposed to solve the problem, calling it an inept and failing process.

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JOHANNESBURG, S. Africa — One of the leading architects of the international battle against “blood diamonds” has quit the global scheme that was supposed to solve the problem, calling it an inept and failing process. Ian Smillie, a Canadian who led the campaign against the illegal diamond trade that was fueling wars in Africa and elsewhere, says he is giving up on the Kimberley Process because it is “complacent and almost completely ineffectual.” The process, he says, has failed to tackle the growing bloodshed that surround diamonds in countries such as Zimbabwe, where more than 200 people were reportedly killed by the military when it seized control of diamond fields last fall, and in Angola, where thousands of small-scale Congolese miners were beaten and expelled. Smillie, who worked for 10 years on the blood-diamond issue and helped create the Kimberley Process, has written to the process members to announce his resignation and to blast it for its refusal to deal with Zimbabwe and other human-rights abuses. “When regulators fail to regulate, the systems they were designed to protect collapse,” he warned in the letter. “Without a genuine wakeup call and the growth of some serious regulatory teeth, it leaves the industry exposed, vulnerable and perhaps, in the end, unworthy of protection.” A leading industry publication, Diamond Intelligence Briefs, said the resignation by Smillie has dealt the Kimberley Process “the hardest blow to its reputation and standing since its inception.” The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, set up in 2003 after years of effort by Smillie and other activists, is an effort by governments and the diamond industry to break the link between the diamond trade and the vicious civil wars that it was provoking in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. It uses a certification process to ensure consumers that their diamond purchases do not fuel wars or violence. The 49 members of the process held a three-day meeting in Namibia recently to discuss the Zimbabwe bloodshed and other problems, but the meeting ended without any statement being issued. For the first time at any major Kimberley meeting since 2003, Smillie did not attend. Smillie, who is a research coordinator at the Ottawa-based Partnership Africa Canada until his resignation takes effect at the end of next month, said the Kimberley Process is ignoring the widespread murders and diamond smuggling in a variety other countries.

– Canadian Press

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