Antwerp’s Diamond Year coincides with EU’s chairmanship of Kimberley Process
In January, the EU took up chairmanship of the Kimberley Process, an international partnership with governments and other actors connected to the global diamond sector. The partnership aims at eliminating conflict diamonds with a new chair every year. Hilde Hardeman, director of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments and Chair of the Kimberley Process, explains what this means for the EU and for Antwerp, our own diamond capital.
Mrs Hardeman, let us start at the beginning. What is the Kimberley Process?
‘Conflict diamonds have played a major role in funding some of the most devastating civil wars in Africa end of the twentieth century. The Kimberley Process started to be operational in 2003 as a regulator with the launching of the Kimberley Certification System. As a tripartite structure with governments, civil society and the diamond industry as pillars, the KP had as task to diminish the number of conflict diamonds in the world.
What has the Kimberley Process achieved so far?
‘Since the Kimberley Process was put in place, the identifiable trade of conflict diamonds dramatically decreased from 15% to less than 1%. With review visits, annual reporting and exchange of statistical data, we seek to make sure that implementation of the Scheme is monitored. What’s more, the Kimberley Process has inspired several other initiatives in natural resource and conflict mineral governance.’
‘Take Côte d’Ivoire, for example. Until 2002, Côte d’Ivoire was a relatively large producer of diamonds. After rebels took control over all significant diamond producing areas, the UN Security Council placed Côte d’Ivoire under an embargo for diamond exports in 2005. Thanks to the efforts of the government of Côte d’Ivoire and with support of the “Friends of Côte d’Ivoire” – an informal international group of Heads of Mission in Abidjan supporting efforts towards enhanced compliance with Kimberley Process standards, of which the EU has been the principal animator – the UN embargo on trade in rough diamonds was lifted in April 2014. The diamond trade was resumed under the oversight of the Kimberley Process. Côte d’Ivoire continues to work on challenges in its mining sector, strengthen internal controls over production and trade of diamonds, and combat smuggling. The EU supports these efforts and also funds a project to support regional cooperation on Kimberley Process compliance between Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.’
What is the role of the EU in the Kimberley Process?
‘The EU has always strived to ensure that the Kimberley Process remains a unique tool for conflict prevention and a catalyst for good governance and transparency in natural resources management. The EU held the rotating Chairmanship of the Process in 2007 and now again in 2018. In 2007, the EU Chairmanship contributed to an initiative to help address cross-border diamond movement in West Africa. In 2018, the EU will – in addition to a range of other responsibilities – also oversee the on-going debate on the review of the Kimberley Process. Other than its Chairmanship role, the EU is a member of all seven Working Bodies, which each have a specific focus (for example the reform process, monitoring the implementation of the scheme or assessing applications for membership). The EU also funds several projects under the so-called Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace which focus on reinforcing governance in the diamond sector and the development of alternative livelihoods. A project in Côte d’Ivoire supported, for instance, women’s associations that rehabilitate exhausted mine sites to use them for agriculture.’
‘When in 2016 the EU expressed its ambition to take over the chair of the Kimberley Process for this year, all members of the Plenary Meeting accepted the bid unanimously. The function of Chair involves overseeing the work of the different Working Bodies of the Kimberley Process and the implementation Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as well as steering the ongoing review cycle of the Kimberley Process. The EU has set a number of priorities for this year. The first is to reinforce the tripartite structure of the Process, which is to say its basis on three central pillars: governments, industry and civil society. The EU also strives to enhance the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process both in terms of preventing conflict and promoting the sustainable development goals and corporate governance. We aim to strengthen the implementation of the Scheme and encourage exchange of best practices and engagement with international organisations, to encourage regional cooperation, and to further support capacity-building.’
What will the EU Chairmanship mean for the city of Antwerp, with its thriving diamond trade?
‘It goes without saying that Antwerp is an important worldwide trading hub for diamonds. The Belgian authority that issues and validates Kimberley Process certificates–the License Service of the Federal Public Service Economy–is based in Antwerp. This is one of six such so-called “Kimberley Process authorities” in the EU. In 2017-2018, the City of Antwerp has moreover organised a dedicated campaign: ‘In Antwerp we speak Diamond. Diamond Capital since 1447’, and the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments is closely cooperating with the city of Antwerp in organising the Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting, which it will host in June 2018.’