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Compromise reached over diamond control

[Angola] Diamonds being sorted.
US $1 million-worth of diamonds are illegally exported each day (CATOCA)

Advocacy groups this week had to settle for a watered-down version of a proposal aimed at getting diamond producing countries to submit to an independent audit of their national diamond control systems.

At the end of the three-day Kimberley Process plenary meeting held in South Africa, government representatives, the diamond industry and NGOs agreed on a system of review "visits" to countries that volunteer to prove their compliance with the rules of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Lobby group Global Witness on Friday said it welcomed the decision, but would rather have had an agreement with "a more rigorous and regular monitoring system".

"Overall we are pleased with the outcome of the meeting, although we would have preferred a more regular review system. As it stands, the agreement is voluntary - which leaves it entirely up to each country to decide when it should be reviewed," Global Witness campaigner, Alex Yearsley, told IRIN.

South Africa, outgoing chair of the Kimberley Process, lent backing to the advocacy groups, who originally suggested regular independent monitoring of all countries every three years.

"It is unlikely that the first review would take place before the end of the year. We could look to some movement in that direction perhaps early next year," Yearsley added.

Chairman of the Kimberley Process, Abbey Chikane, told IRIN: "Already 10 countries, including the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Congo Brazzaville, have offered to be reviewed. This is a positive sign that there are moves to greater transparency in diamond trading."

But critics and advocacy groups have long argued that the adoption of a peer review mechanism was key to ensuring the credibility of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

The Kimberley Process, which came into effect in February, is essentially a diamond export and import control mechanism.

Under the scheme, diamond producer countries would control the production and transport of rough diamonds from the mine to the point of export. Shipments of rough diamonds would be sealed in tamper-resistant containers and a "Kimberley process" certificate issued for each shipment.

South Africa handed over chairmanship of the process to Canada, which will lead the process from January next year. The chair will then pass to Russia, the country selected as vice chair at the Sun City meeting.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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