I have done less reporting this year than I did last year on the Kimberley Process because news, as they taught me at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, is the new, the different, the unusual–the “man bites dog” aphorism.
Last year, a much-needed expansion to the definition of “conflict” diamonds from just “rough stones used by rebel movements to fund wars against legitimate governments” to include “diamond-related violence in rough diamond-producing and -trading areas” failed to pass after the United States, then KP chair, spent a whole year pushing for it.
It’s a change that’s much needed as violence in Africa has shifted from rebel groups fighting legitimate governments to governments perpetrating violence against their own people.
On Monday, I attended a panel discussion at the JA New York Summer Show on the good that diamonds can do for the communities where they are mined. The discussion included a special appearance by Jose Fernandez, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs.
Fernandez said he is “hopeful” an expanded definition for conflict diamond will pass this year during the chairmanship of South Africa. The proposal has received a “good reaction” from a number of countries, he said. After the panel, I pressed him for more information. Is he 50 percent sure a new definition will pass? Less sure than that? More?
Fernandez refused to quantify his level of assuredness and would only say that he’s “never been a betting man.”
At that hopeful remark, panelist Martin Rapaport made a face from the stage that can best, and most politely, be described as doubtful. He later said that the KP “will cure cancer” before its members agree on expanding the definition of conflict.
Though I can’t verify this for lack of a hand mirror, I would imagine I had a similarly skeptical look on my face.
The KP is an entity that was created for a specific purpose 10 years ago. It has, without a doubt, enjoyed success in doing what it was created to do: stem the flow of so-called blood diamonds that funded the conflicts taking place at that time.
Now the political situation is different, but the process isn’t. It, in Fernandez’s words, has “outlived” its origins.
But, one piece of the KP remains the same: it takes a complete consensus to get anything passed. This is a roadblock to any substantive change.
Here’s one example of one KP member that doesn’t seem likely to vote to broaden the definition of conflict: Just a little over a month ago, a representative of the United Arab Emirates said publicly that members of the KP should let it do what it was construed to do from the outset, and that the judgment of human rights violations should be left up to other institutions.
I know this is just one snippet from the speech of one person, but I am certain he is not the only influencer that feels this way. And, remember, one is all it takes.
I’ve never been a betting woman, but I would wager that I’m not wrong about this. Hopefully, I am.