Session 3 - What has changed since the KP’s inception and how should Africa respond?
In an effort to craft an African definition of conflict diamonds, it was argued that African governments should first acknowledge the need to expand the definition of conflict diamonds. It was maintained that human rights ought to be encompassed within the definition of conflict diamonds. Zimbabwe was mentioned as a country where the current definition of conflict diamonds is severely challenged. The Zimbabwean case demonstrates how legitimate governments can collude with corporates and commit serious human rights abuses against their own citizens. It was argued that failure to redefine conflict diamonds continues to undermine the objectives of the KP.
There was a strong sense among panellists that the recognition of human rights by the KP would have a significant influence on state transparency and accountability. As such, it is high time KP acknowledged that conflict diamonds are not only those controlled by rebel groups, but also by legitimate governments and private actors where human rights abuses occur.
It was argued that there is need for the KP to acknowledge the social, political and economic changes characterising different societies and factors them in formulating a new definition of conflict diamond. The panel insisted on the need to factor in the different forms of violations such as displacement of communities without proper compensation, the loss of livelihoods, and corruption, which is a serious obstacle to the optimisation of the benefits of diamonds.
A panellist attempted to provide a new definition of conflict diamond, which he said could only be formulated by first understanding the operational nature of the diamond industry, Africa’s political economy and other social forces involved in the diamond industry. By identifying these social forces, one is able to come up with a strong and informed definition applicable in various contexts across the globe.
There are two camps within the KP – those in favour of reforms and those against them. Those in favour of a new definition of conflict diamond argue that the era of rebels sustaining their movements through conflict diamonds in Africa has passed, hence the need to pay attention to new realities, such as human rights abuses. On the other hand, those against a new definition argue that the move might be a way to indirectly punish African states through the KP. This view is supported by the majority of African governments, which believe that non-African countries are penetrating Africa through mechanisms such as the KP, which they are using for their own political agendas. This group argues that in Zimbabwe’s case the KP allowed itself to be used to settle political scores.
It was also suggested that a justifiable definition of conflict diamonds should not only focus on Africa but should also take the global context into consideration. There was a need to understand the different roles of played by all the various actors within the diamond industry so that the new definition covers the widest possible range of issues likely to emanate from the diamond industry.
The panellists also looked at corporate behaviour in the mining sector. The KP was urged not only to focus on the behaviour of governments but also on the impact and influence of corporate behaviour on the livelihoods of communities. It was suggested that the KP should introduce a rating mechanism to track the behaviour of companies in relation to their corporate social responsibility in order to prevent the unjustifiable exploitation of resources and communities by corporate actors. Communities ought to benefit from their natural resources but this can only be guaranteed by scrutinising the behaviour of companies, and the relationship between them and governments. Corporate actors are not always concerned about the interests of communities so there is a need for civil society to continue pressing for transparency and accountability, especially with regards to governments issuing mining contracts.
It was suggested that as the KP could learn from – and indeed borrow – reforms undertaken by other governance mechanisms, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the EITI.
It was argued that the KP should be careful when making decisions regarding the non-compliance of member states. In particular, it should not rush to punish member states directly but instead it should wait for other institutions, such as the United Nations, to impose sanctions on a country and then impose its own punitive measures. While this approach might make the KP appear weaker, it takes into consideration the actual capacities of the KP, which has to operate within its limited mandate and with limited resources.
It was announced that the KP is currently working on a concept document, which aims to address key issues of definition, non-compliance and the structure of the KP.
Participants agreed on the need to change the definition of conflict diamonds. Some participants also called for the mandate of the KP to be widened so that it could monitor the flow and use of diamond revenues by member states and international corporations, which would help to reduce corruption at national and global levels.
One participant argued that African governments are not prepared to accept a new definition of conflict diamond because a new one will force them to undertake an internal audit, which will end up revealing severe inconsistencies with regards to the KP’s minimum requirements. The participant added that if the KP’s tripartite alliance was intended to achieve a common goal, then the partners in that alliance should operate on an equal footing rather than being treated differently like they currently are – with some being participants and others merely observers.
An important point that was raised is the fact that conflict diamonds are not as controversial as some diamond actors want everyone to believe. Actors from the diamond industry are simply advancing their own interests above those of local communities. The majority of diamonds coming from Africa are conflict diamonds since the destination of most of the revenues generated from these precious stones remains unknown. There was a perception that the effectiveness of the KP is severely compromised by politics at national and global levels. One participant argued that the reason given by most African governments for not supporting a new definition of conflict diamonds is senseless and political.
However, other participants took another view, arguing that the KP suffers from double standards – confirmed by its readiness to label African diamonds as conflict diamonds until they reach international diamond retail markets when they suddenly become conflict-free diamonds. One participant stressed that the KP is characterised by the politics of domination by the world’s more powerful countries and it will remain ineffective until all actors are treated equally.
About the author(s)
Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.