Kimberley Process (KP) chairperson Gillian Milovanovic on Tuesday hosted a web chat with journalists from all over the world addressing issues to do with diamond trading. NewsDay took part in the exchange. Below are excerpts of the interview:
Q: What is a conflict diamond?
GM: A conflict diamond in terms of the KP is a diamond which is being used in order to fuel insurgency against a legitimate government.
Q: What is the role of transit countries — like the United Arab Emirates — in curbing the flow of conflict diamonds?
GM: Well, everyone who’s part of this process has a role to play.
Whether you are at the location of a mine, cutting and polishing, whether you’re a transit company and, indeed, transit companies have to meet the same criteria as everyone else in terms of having suitable legislation, regulations and enforcing them properly in order to ensure the integrity of the rough diamond supply chain.
Q: Global Witness left the KP in December 2011. What have you done in response?
GM: Global Witness, of course, was one of the founding members of the KP and I think it’s honest to say that as I have gone around and talked with a great number of people — whether they represented states, civil society organisations, or the industry over the last couple of months — everyone has said they regretted the fact that Global Witness made the decision to leave the process.
I was recently in Canada where Global Witness was present and had an opportunity to have good conversations with them and I think that’s the kind of thing we’re going to continue to do.
Q. How is the KP dealing with the controversy surrounding Zimbabwe being a part of KP?
GM: I will tell you that when I took this job I was told there had been a rough two years in the past in which the KP tried to work out how to handle the question of Zimbabwe and diamonds, particularly in the Marange fields.
And ultimately in November of last year, recognising again that no decision can be made unless there’s consensus, the United States deliberately stood back and allowed everyone else to achieve a consensus regarding Zimbabwean diamonds and regarding a methodology whereby if given diamond mines met the criteria they could be certified. And this has happened and a number of mines are, in fact, KP certified and this process continues.
For my part and as KP chair, I am here to look at the future and to look to bring the entire KP family together and that includes Zimbabwe. As I’ve also said on a number of occasions, you know, I’m here for everyone because I’m the chair and that’s how I intend to conduct my work. As far as Zimbabwe is concerned my role is to ensure regular processes of the KP, that monitoring visits are handled appropriately, which they have been.
I also ensure the KP receives information in the normal course of events; monitor reports which Zimbabwe needs to send and make sure reports which it has been getting are circulated and that is the extent to which I focus on Zimbabwe.
I feel that it’s important we move now to everyone being a member of the KP family and we look to the future and all of us working together.
Q: What is the status of Venezuela in the KP? Are they back in the process after they self-suspended in 2008?
GM: Venezuela self-suspended at the end of this past year. They were asked to submit their materials to end the self-suspension and have it determined formally. Are they back in, ultimately able to provide certificates or not? Venezuela did provide some material.
That material is being worked on by the appropriate committee within the KP.
Q: What are your goals as KP chair this year?
GM: We only have one year. I think in all honesty for me one of the biggest goals is making sure after two years of a good deal of strain on the KP that we get back to a situation in which there is a sense of collegiality, there’s a sense of everyone (being) part of the KP family.
That members, whether they are states or observers like the diamond industry and the civil society, know their views are listened to and respected and desired and everyone has the sense they are an important part of the process.
Q: Will Zimbabwe be attending the intercessional meetings?
GM: I certainly expect it will be. We have every expectation that Zimbabwe will have a delegation here and we look forward to it. I might add I also had an opportunity to speak with Zimbabwean officials who were present at the mining conference in Cape Town (South Africa) about six weeks ago when I was there and we had a good conversation, and certainly we expect Zimbabwe will be here for the intercessional.
Q: What is happening regarding an administrative office to run the day-to-day administration of the KP?
GM: This is a very important issue. The KP has no secretariat. It has no continuity from one chairmanship to the next. And even the website is something which has depended on donations at one time or another. There’s no guarantee that this will continue. So last year again, as part of the decision-making at the November plenary, it was decided to create a group that was going to look at establishing a modest administrative mechanism.
Q: Now, apparently there’s an issue with fake certificates. What’s happening with that issue?
GM: You know, fake certificates, like fake money, have always been something that’s in existence, so it’s not exactly startling. But the minute something like this is discovered, information is circulated immediately by whoever has found it to within the KP. This is the kind of information that is provided to relevant customs and border authorities and anyone else in enforcement that needs to be in a position to be able to identify these fakes and ensure products covered by these fakes are not permitted to go any further.