Presentation At The Official Opening Of The Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting In Zimbabwe


24 MAY 2023

Elephant Hills, Victoria Falls

  • Hon Acting Vice-President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Rtd. Gen. Dr. C.D.G.N. Chiwenga
  • Hon. W. Chitando, KP Chair and Minister of Mines and Mining Development
  • Minister of State for Matebeleland North, Hon. R. Moyo
  • Ms Feriel Zerouki, President of the World Diamond Council;
  • Coordinator of the KP Civil Society Coalition,
  • Chairs of Kimberley Process Working Groups
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Acting President, on behalf of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, I want to thank the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development for inviting me to speak during this session and for hosting the 2023 KP Intersessional Meeting here in Victoria Falls.

I also want to thank the Government of Zimbabwe for creating a tripartite structure that has allowed for the exchange of ideas and information between the government, companies, communities, and civil society. That is the true spirit of the Kimberley Process, which was born out of the efforts of civil society organizations. It was civil society that raised the alarm on the suffering of people and communities at the hands of rebel groups in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, and the DRC. These groups sought to unseat legitimate governments using revenues from rough diamonds. They caused great harm, disturbed peace in communities, and committed gross human rights violations. The preamble to the KP Core Document refers to these words I have used. So as civil society within the KP, we are standing on the shoulders of those who approached and testified before the UN on such suffering, leading to efforts by governments and industry to take action to establish the KP.

If you remember, Acting President, last month during the ADPA meeting, I presented to you and the President, here in this very same room, a 10-Point Plan on how African states can tap into and address Opportunities and Threats on Advancing Investments and Economic Benefits from Diamonds. Today I will just focus on a few challenges facing the KP and what we are calling for as necessary reforms. We strongly feel that the KP is no longer fit for purpose. As a civil society, we have already stated most of our concerns in our opening speech delivered by Dr. Michel Yoboue.

Acting President One of the key reform areas we are grappling with here in Victoria Falls is the definition of conflict diamonds. The current definition is narrow as it does not take into account human rights violations, environmental damage, or displacements in communities living in diamond mining areas around the world. It does not even capture the poor labor conditions in diamond cutting and trading countries. Often, measures taken by companies are not adequate to protect the rights of affected people, while states in many cases fail to protect and respect the rights of people as national constitutions or international law prescribe. In some cases, unruly state actors or non-state actors unleash violence on people, and this happens in diamond producing countries.

Acting President, the KP adopted a Declaration of Principles on Responsible Sourcing of Diamonds in November 2021 that clearly acknowledges the existence of these things that we are talking about, so they are imagined. We call that Declaration Frame 7. It encourages participants to promote best practices, within their national laws, to promote labor rights, human rights, environmental protection, the development of local communities, anti-corruption, and responsible diamond mining. So, what we are saying is that since we have accepted the existence of these things, let’s redefine conflict diamonds to reflect what we recognized in Frame 7. However, there is fear that we might victimize some countries and states. That is not the case, Acting President. We are simply saying states can use their own existing laws on human rights, or existing KP rules and procedures to deal with cases. The KP may as well call on external organizations such as the UN to help investigate or address any problems identified and be provided with technical assistance. In no way are we calling for embargoes on diamonds from any country. In fact, Acting President, during this KP Intersessional meeting we will be discussing how technical assistance can be provided to participants that may be struggling with compliance. Implementation of an expanded definition based on human rights language may, in fact, be one area where participants who are struggling may be assisted with technical assistance or capacity building.

The good thing for Zimbabwe’s Acting President is that last week the President launched the Responsible Mining Audit that allows the government to assess how companies have been complying with national laws, safety, health, the environment, community impacts, and labor issues across different mining operations, including diamonds. This shows that a new definition can be implemented at the national level to address human rights concerns. In our opening speech, we commended Zimbabwe for this and encouraged the KP to consider this as a model for testing the implementation of the Frame 7 Principles in other countries.

Consumer needs and Responsible Sourcing Standards

The reason we are also talking about reforms is because consumers of diamonds are now concerned about ethical standards and community benefits. Consumer resistance to unethically mined diamonds and millennial demands for clean diamonds are real, not imagined. African natural diamonds are likely to be overtaken by synthetic or lab-grown diamonds. Some of the countries in this room have labs for producing synthetic diamonds, which will compete with natural diamonds. This means African states will lose if we do not address the issues of concern to consumers. If others don’t want to move, Zimbabwe should move ahead to support redefinition, and we should brand our diamonds to be attractive to consumers.

Community development

Acting President, we are also discussing how the KP can reform and promote the development of diamond communities by assessing the impacts of diamond mining on communities and corporate social responsibility. A KP sub-team on technical assistance and community development is working on this.

Investments in diamond mining and trade have contributed to economic development in some communities and countries. Botswana is often cited as an example of how diamonds have transformed the economy, although we hear there are ongoing partnership renegotiations between the government and some companies in that country. However, many communities and economies in Africa have not yet fully realized the economic benefits of diamonds as communities do not have access to adequate services such as hospitals, roads, water, and other social services. Through the community development reform agenda, there is a need for KP participants to come up with local community development policies that can be implemented by companies and government departments.

In Zimbabwe, we need to move quickly toward implementing community benefit projects that can transform lives for the people in diamond mining areas. The adoption of community development agreements in Sierra Leone can be a good example to look at.

Undervaluation of diamonds

Lastly, the undervaluation of diamonds sourced from African countries is a real and major risk and vulnerability that the KP and African states should closely look into. Undervaluation entails buying diamonds on the cheap and reselling them at much higher prices without any major value addition to the stone. There is a need to look at factors that cause undervaluation, which may include a lack of value addition or beneficiation, a lack of sorting of diamonds, or even reputational issues that damage the image of diamonds. I conveyed this same message during the ADPA meeting last month.

Acting President, with those remarks I thank you.

Shamiso Mtisi

Deputy Director

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)

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