At a four-day meeting in Johannesburg, Kimberley Process delegates called for stiffer penalties for those dealing in blood diamonds. However, they failed to come up with a broader definition of the term.
Delegates from 81 countries which belong to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) met for four days in Johannesburg to discuss proposals designed to give them more power to act against the sellers and and recipients of so-called 'blood diamonds.'
The KPCS was founded in South Africa in 2003 and put in place a mechanism aimed at stemming the flow of rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance conflicts.
For outgoing KPCS chairman Ambassador Welile Nhlapho, the plenary meeting was a resounding success. Delegates agreed to maintain the ban on diamond sales on the Central African Republic until the country proves its ability to prevent their usage in fuelling conflicts.
The meeting also mandated the KPCS to assist Ivory Coast in complying with its rules.
"We are happy about the outcomes and the proceedings of this conference," Ambassador Nhlapho said. "I think people came here with the serious intention of finding solutions to the problems that we have identified as weaknesses. We have put in place measures to strengthen our own internal controls and also to see how we can assist some of the countries where diamonds are still implicated."
Earlier Ambassador Nhlapo congratulated the European Union for its decision to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe after the disputed elections of 31 July 2013 that were won by incumbent president Robert Mugabe. "We hope that those who continue to maintain such sanctions will also be able to lift them because the lifting of these sanctions would assist Zimbabwe to bring back stability and prosperity," he said.
New definition still needed
Civil society representative Shamiso Mtisi said the meeting had provided a good platform for concerns to be raised. However, he expressed disappointment that the KPCS had not come up with a new definition of conflict or blood diamonds. He said this was necessary "to capture the abuses that are ongoing in communities and these are abuses committed by state entities, by the police, the military and also private security guards." So far 'blood diamonds' has been used to refer only to the stones used by rebel groups in conflict zones to finance their campaigns.
Critical words also came from Siphamandla Zondi, Director of the of the Institute for Global Dialogue, a Pretoria-based international relations think tank. He challenged KPCS to start acting more and talking less. "Diamonds are still moving around and they are still causing problems, they still perpetuate fraud, they perpetuate conflict, perpetuate dictatorship and all of those issues I think should come on board," Zondi said.
South Africa now hands on the chair of the KPCS to China with effect from 1 January 2014.