GENERAL ASSEMBLY REAFFIRMS STRONG SUPPORT FOR ‘KIMBERLEY PROCESS’, AIMED AT ELIMINATING USE OF ROUGH DIAMONDS TO FUEL CONFLICT

14 April 2004
GA/10238

GENERAL ASSEMBLY REAFFIRMS STRONG SUPPORT FOR ‘KIMBERLEY PROCESS’, AIMED AT ELIMINATING USE OF ROUGH DIAMONDS TO FUEL CONFLICT

14/04/2004
Press Release
GA/10238


Fifty-eighth General Assembly                              

Plenary                                                    

85th Meeting (PM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY REAFFIRMS STRONG SUPPORT FOR ‘KIMBERLEY PROCESS’,

 

AIMED AT ELIMINATING USE OF ROUGH DIAMONDS TO FUEL CONFLICT

The General Assembly this afternoon reaffirmed its strong support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which came into effect on 1 January 2003 and aims at eliminating the use of rough diamonds to finance armed conflict.


Established by the southern African diamond-producing countries in 2000, the Kimberley Process also aimed at protecting the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries depended.  The Process led to the emergence of the international Certification Scheme for rough diamonds -- adopted at a ministerial meeting held at Interlaken, Switzerland, on 5 November 2002 -- which is based primarily on national certification schemes and on internationally agreed minimum standards.  Today’s meeting focused on progress achieved since the Certification Scheme’s full implementation at the beginning of 2003.  The Assembly endorsed the Process last April.


Adopting today without a vote a resolution entitled “The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:   breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts”, the Assembly, stressing that the widest possible participation in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is essential and should be encouraged, urged all Member States to actively participate in the Certification Scheme by complying with its undertakings.


By further terms of the text, recognizing that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme can help to ensure the effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions containing sanctions on the trade in conflict diamonds, the Assembly called for the full implementation of existing Council measures targeting the illicit trade in rough diamonds that play a role in fuelling conflict. 


The Assembly also welcomed the establishment, at a plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process in April 2003 in South Africa, of a Participation Committee to ensure that participants and applicants willing to join the Scheme meet the minimum standards.  It also welcomed adoption, at an October 2003 plenary meeting, of a peer review system for the Scheme’s effective implementation. 


By other terms, the Assembly encouraged participants in the Kimberley Process to allow voluntary review visits and welcomed the readiness of some participants to host such visits.  Participants were also encouraged to submit annual reports on the Scheme’s implementation to the Kimberley Process Chair.


Introducing the report of the Certification Scheme, the representative of South Africa noted that his country had handed over the chairing of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to Canada -- a major diamond-producing country -- at the end of 2003.  Only with the commitment of all players could the integrity of a system to combat conflict diamonds be guaranteed, he said.  While the Kimberley Process Scheme now enjoyed the participation of all major diamond producing, trading and processing centres, the battle against conflict diamonds was far from over.  It was important to maintain the integrity of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and continue to implement its provisions.


Canada’s representative, describing the Kimberley Process as an essential tool in advancing human security, said the Assembly had, by adopting the resolution, reinforced the determination of Kimberley Process participants to comprehensively implement the Certification Scheme.  The Kimberley Process was having a real impact, sending a clear signal that governments, industry and civil society required that the global trade in rough diamonds be conducted in an open and transparent manner and through legitimate markets.  Challenges before the Kimberley Process in 2004 would focus on effective monitoring and the collection of statistics, he noted.


Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the United States, Egypt, Venezuela, Botswana and Angola, as well as a representative of the European Union.


The Assembly will meet again at a date and time to be announced.


Background


The General Assembly met this afternoon to take up the role of diamonds in fuelling conflicts.  It had before a letter from South Africa transmitting a report (document A/58/623), which notes progress achieved since the simultaneous international implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) on 1 January 2003.


According to the report, in recognition of implementation challenges facing certain countries, a “tolerance period” for national implementation was extended to 31 May 2003.  On 15 May 2003, the World Trade Organization’s General Council approved the granting of a waiver to those countries implementing the KPCS and indicating that they required such a waiver.  The various working groups of the KPCS are helping to strengthen the Scheme’s implementation.  A recommendation was adopted that provides for the establishment of a peer review mechanism for monitoring the Scheme’s implementation.  Based on a combination of self-reporting and the use of “review visits” and “review missions” to participants, the peer review mechanism will help guarantee the effective implementation of the Scheme’s provisions.


Participation in the Certification Scheme has increased significantly, the report continues.  The chairmanship of the KPCS, which has been held by South Africa since its inception in May 2000, will pass to Canada on 1 January 2004 for one year, after which it will pass to the Russian Federation, the 2004 Vice-Chair, for the 2005 calendar year.


The Kimberley Process continues to enjoy widespread, growing support and now represents all major diamond producing, trading and processing countries, the report states.  Those States that have yet to meet the minimum requirements for participation are strongly encouraged to continue their efforts to do so.  Full international implementation of the KPCS will help prevent the trade in conflict diamonds.  The Certification Scheme helps to ensure the effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions pertaining to trade in conflict diamonds.  In so doing, the KPCS is making a valuable contribution to promotion of international peace and security.


Progress achieved in the Scheme’s international implementation bears testimony to what can be achieved in the international arena in the unique partnership between governments, the diamond industry and civil society to ensure that full implementation is maintained, the report adds.  Ongoing support for the Scheme also helps to promote the legitimate diamond trade, upon which a significant number of countries are dependent for their socio-economic development.


By the terms of the draft resolution on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict (document A/58/L.59), the Assembly would reaffirm its strong support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and recognize that the Scheme can help to ensure the effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions containing sanctions on the trade-in conflict diamonds.  It would call for the implementation of existing Council measures targeting the illicit trade in rough diamonds that play a role in fuelling conflict.


The Assembly would, by further terms, stress that the widest possible participation in the Scheme is essential and urge all Member States to actively participate in the Certification Scheme by complying with its undertakings.  It would also welcome the establishment at the plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process held in South Africa in April 2003 of a Participation Committee to ensure that participants and applicants meet the minimum standards.


By further terms of the draft, the Assembly would take note of the 15 May 2003 decision of the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) granting a waiver with respect to the measures taken to implement the Certification Scheme.  It would welcome progress achieved at the plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process held in Sun City, South Africa, from 29 to 31 October 2003 by the adoption of a decision on a peer review system for the effective implementation of the Scheme.  The Assembly would also encourage participants in the Kimberley Process to allow voluntary review visits in accordance with that decision and welcome the readiness of some participants to host such visits.  Participants would also be encouraged to submit annual reports on the Scheme’s implementation to Kimberley Process Chair.


Also according to the draft, the Assembly would further encourage all the Scheme’s participants to submit relevant statistical data on the production of and international trade in rough diamonds, as a tool for effective implementation and as envisaged by the Certification Scheme.  The Assembly would also acknowledge with great appreciation the important contribution that South Africa’s Government has made to efforts to curb the trade in conflict diamonds in its capacity as Chair of the Kimberley Process from May 2000 to December 2003, and welcome the selection of Canada as the Chair and the Russian Federation as Vice-Chair for 2004.  The Assembly would request the Chair to submit to its fifty-ninth session a report on the implementation of the process and decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of its fifty-ninth session.


Statements


Introducing the report before the Assembly, DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) recalled that after 31 December 2003 his country had handed over the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to Canada -- a major diamond-producing country.  Only with the commitment of all players in the industry could the integrity of any system to combat conflict diamonds be guaranteed.  For that reason, it was commendable that the Kimberley Process Scheme had attracted such widespread support and now enjoyed the participation of all major diamond producing, trading and processing centres.


Noting good progress in the implementation of the Kimberley Process in the past year, he emphasized the significance of the outcome of the Sun City plenary, which had been held in South Africa.  During that event, agreement had been reached on monitoring and investigative procedures for the certificate scheme.  The procedures remained voluntary, but such was a commitment of Kimberley Process parties that he anticipated full cooperation of all governments in allowing access for investigation where serious discrepancies had been found.


A review mission to the Central African Republic had been carried out successfully to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, he continued.  He was confident that the proposed review mission to the Republic of the Congo would help to clear the discrepancies in diamond export figures there and would point to the way forward in improving the effectiveness of control systems.  Offers by all parties to the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme to host review missions would be welcome.  Also, as statistical records in terms of the process were built up, the analysis of those statistics would help to underpin the Scheme and identify potential problems more effectively.


Continuing, he thanked the non-governmental organization community for its vigilance in keeping the issue under review.  Non-governmental organizations had been essential partners in the whole initiative, and he trusted the system would continue to have their support.  South Africa would also like to commend the diamond industry and especially the World Diamond Council for their support of the KPCS.


In conclusion, he said that the battle against conflict diamonds was far from over.  It was important to maintain the integrity of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and continue to implement its provisions.  The experience with implementation dictated that it might be necessary to look at further developing the system, where needed.  The success of the review mechanisms was important in that regard, as would be the emergence of a statistical database, which would provide an accurate picture of global rough diamond flows.


ALLAN ROCK (Canada) said the resolution sent an important and essential signal.  By reaffirming its support for decisions and actions taken, the Assembly reinforced the determination of the Kimberley Process participants to comprehensively implement the Certification Scheme.  Such comprehensive and long-term implementation was necessary to ensure that the link between conflict diamonds and armed conflict was permanently broken.  The Kimberley Process had made substantial progress in combating the trade in conflict diamonds.  On the basis of a fruitful meeting in South Africa in October 2003, the final dimensions of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme had now been negotiated.  Forty-seven participants, including the European Community, were currently implementing the Scheme, which covered the vast majority of the global diamond trade.


The Kimberley Process was having a real impact, he said.  It had sent a clear signal that governments, industry and civil society required that the global trade in rough diamonds was conducted in an open and transparent manner and through legitimate markets.  Participants had seized shipments of rough diamonds lacking Kimberley Process Certificates and smugglers had been prosecuted.  Most importantly, the Process was making a positive contribution in the countries that had suffered the devastating effects of conflict diamonds.  Since the Scheme’s implementation, a larger portion of diamonds had been channelled through official government mechanisms.


The resolution spoke of breaking the link between the illicit trade in rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to the prevention and settlement of conflict, he said.  The Certification Scheme made a crucial contribution to the ongoing implementation of fragile peace agreements in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone by denying resources to potential spoilers.  As those peace agreements took root, the Kimberley Process would remain an important vehicle for preventing the outbreak of future conflicts.  The challenges before the Kimberley Process this year revolved around effective monitoring and the collection of statistics.

As Chair, Canada was committed to the implementation of the important decision on a peer review system consisting of three pillars, he said.  They included the submission of annual reports on national implementation, voluntary review visits to all participants, and the deployment of review missions in the event of credible indications of significant non-compliance.  The first of the review visits was taken in the United Arab Emirates in March 2004.


The resolution also addressed the important aspect of provision of statistics by the Kimberley Process participants, he said.  Analysis of statistics on production, import and export for rough diamonds was essential to identifying anomalies that might indicate potential entry points for conflict diamonds into the legitimate trade.  While the collection of reliable data from a broad range of producing and trading countries presented considerable challenges, important progress had been made in recent months.  The task ahead for the Certification Scheme was to routinely analyse the data to ensure effective implementation.  The Kimberley Process was an essential tool in advancing human security by preventing future armed conflict driven by the illicit trade in conflict diamonds.


SICHAN SIV (United States) said that his country had been actively pursuing a solution to the problem of conflict diamonds since their horrific, destructive effect had become known in the late 1990s.  His Government had worked assiduously with other concerned governments, the diamond industry and human rights organizations to create a controlled trading system for rough diamonds designed to halt the flow of conflict diamonds, while avoiding harm to the legitimate diamond industry.


The past 16 months had witnessed striking progress towards that goal, he said.  In November 2003, 36 countries plus the European Community had pledged their political commitment to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for rough diamonds.  Domestically, each participant of the Process had put legislation in place to implement their commitments.  For its part, the United States Congress had passed the Clean Diamond Trade Act, and the President had signed it. 


One year later, the KPCS was up and running, he continued.  Rough diamond shipments between Kimberley Process participants were routinely stopped and scrutinized, and some participants had seized shipments that had arrived in their countries in violation of the Process.  Perhaps more tellingly, a representative from a non-governmental organization that had been carefully monitoring the Process since its inception had recently provided an upbeat assessment of its effectiveness to date, noting that two former dealers in conflict diamonds had become most upset when he had mentioned the Process, complaining bitterly that it had put them out of business.


The participants of the Kimberley Process had been active over the past year improving and refining the system.  “We have assured ourselves that we all have met the minimum undertakings of the Kimberley Process, we have agreed on a system of peer review, and we have conducted peer review visits to two participants, with many more scheduled, he said.  “Our ranks have grown to the point where we now number 48 participants.”


The system now included the vast majority of the world’s producers, traders and consumers of rough diamonds, he added.  In truth, the list of governments who had played a leadership role was as long as the list of participants, for unless each participant showed leadership, the voluntary system would not work.  Finally, the Kimberley Process would have never come as far as it had without the active support and participation of the diamond industry and concerned non-governmental organizations, which had offered invaluable insight on what had to be done to halt the scourge of conflict diamonds.


AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said conflict in Africa had long been linked to the illicit trade in diamonds.  The Kimberley Process was an interesting model of partnership between concerned governments and diamond producing and trading companies, as well as civil society and the United Nations system.  Within the Certification Scheme, certain countries reaffirmed that all members were assuming shared responsibility in the cause of protecting international peace and security.  He stressed the importance of the Assembly in pursuing participation in the Certification Scheme, and he hoped that Kimberley Process participation would continue to increase.


The success of the Certification Scheme went hand in hand with implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said.  In the case of Sierra Leone, there had been necessary coordination between the Process and the Council to consolidate the peace process.  Egypt appreciated the efforts taken by South Africa in support of the Kimberley Process.  He hoped for even greater success under the guidance of the Canadian Government.  He supported the draft resolution.


ADRIANA PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said that the effect of trafficking in rough diamonds in fuelling armed conflict was increasingly manifest.  Significant progress had been made in combating that phenomenon, however.  The introduction of the KPCS, in which Venezuela participated, was an important step in detecting and preventing the illicit trade in rough diamonds.  South Africa had played an important role in the development of the Scheme in its first year.  She was sure that new progress would be achieved this year under the chairmanship of Canada.


She was gratified that the Assembly was considering the important issue under discussion today, she continued, for it played an important role in conflict prevention and resolution.  Proper handling of the problem would undoubtedly help to maintain peace and security around the world.  It was important for the international community to work together to create the conditions to prevent and resolve conflicts, in particular, through the efforts to stop the financing of armed groups.


Venezuela had been a member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme since last February 2003, she said.  The Process was important politically and socio-economically.  The system could serve as an effective mechanism to prevent smuggling and fraud, while promoting legitimate trade in diamonds and fostering the conditions for the development of many countries, in particular, through job creation.  As the number of participants in the Scheme grew, the Process would produce better results.  When countries had common interests and when there was the required political will, the desired objectives could be achieved.  She appealed to the countries that had not yet done so to join the KPCS.


A.M. DUBE (Botswana) said the report showed the remarkable progress made by the Certification Scheme during the last two years.  The Kimberley Process had fulfilled the mandate of both the Security Council and the General Assembly to bring about a system that would eliminate from the legitimate trade in rough diamonds the nefarious trading in conflict diamonds, which had been responsible for so much human misery in some of Africa’s conflicts.  As the KPCS was now in effect, Member States were challenged to comply fully with the Certification Scheme, whether as diamond producers, manufacturers or consumers.  It also placed a heavy responsibility on the diamond industry itself -- through the World Diamond Council, the Diamond Manufactures Association and other trade bodies -- to educate their membership about the Scheme. 


The eyes of consumers and lobby groups would be closely watching the implementation of the Certification Scheme, he said.  The credibility and effectiveness of the Kimberley Process strongly depended on the diamond industry being held accountable for commitments to stop the trade in illicit diamonds.  Governments would have to maintain vigilance in its implementation.  Given its heavy dependence on the diamond industry, Botswana remained fully committed to the Kimberley Process.  Botswana had implemented the Scheme on 1 January 2003 and had continued to make improvements in the internal controls dealing with rough diamonds.  Botswana had also invited a peer review mission to audit its systems, which he expected to take place in May or June this year.


MARIO DE AZEVEDO CONSTANTINO (Angola) said that from the very beginning his country had played an important role in international efforts to address the global trade in conflict diamonds, which had had a devastating impact on peace and security in several African countries, including Angola, and in ensuring that decisions involving Security Council sanctions on that matter were translated into effective action.


He said that a key lesson drawn from that process was devoted to the measures to strengthen the United Nations role in the implementation of targeted sanctions, the necessary coordination among United Nations actors, and the importance of sanctions committees that had the lead role in monitoring the implementation of targeted Security Council sanctions.  Angola, therefore, looked forward to the unanimous adoption of the draft resolution before the Assembly today.  Angola would continue to do whatever was necessary to see that the issue of conflict diamonds continued to be addressed in a comprehensive manner through the implementation of the international certificate scheme.


ANGEL CARRO CASTRILLO, observer for the European Commission, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that breaking the link between rough diamonds trade and the fuelling of armed conflict was now firmly entrenched in the agenda, as it should be.  The Kimberley Process was no longer just a “process”.  That had given rise to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which had now been in operation for a full year.  During that time, answers had been found to most of the questions that had remained open after the Interlaken document was adopted in November 2002.


He said that the Kimberley Process, through the establishment of a Participation Committee, had found an effective response to the challenge of ensuring that those applying to join the Scheme were actually able to fulfil its obligations.  With the agreement on peer review adopted at last year’s Sun City plenary meeting, the Kimberley Process had risen to the challenge of devising effective and comprehensive monitoring provisions.  If properly implemented, they would help ensure that all participants upheld the provisions of the Scheme.  Such monitoring was crucial to preventing loopholes through which illicit diamonds could enter the legitimate diamond market. 


Commending South Africa for having steered the Kimberley Process during that decisive first phase, he said that that country had consistently shown the firm, yet consensual touch needed to galvanize a varied coalition of governments, industry representatives and non-governmental organizations behind a common purpose.  He also thanked Canada for having taken over the difficult assignment of chairing the Process in 2004.  The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, strengthened by extensive “peer review” provisions, was now a viable instrument backed by a remarkable effort at the national level and, in the Union’s case, at the European level, to give effect to its provisions.  It also clearly still required the strong support of the United Nations.


Action on Draft


The Assembly was informed that since the publication of the draft, Guyana, Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania had joined the list of its co-sponsors.


The Assembly then adopted the resolution on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, without a vote.


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For information media. Not an official record.