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Diamond Development Initiative for African Alluvial Operations
DDI began with a meeting of government, civil society and diamond industry...
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Jun 13 2005 12:00AM
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Reference: 2274  

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The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) began with a meeting of government, civil society and diamond industry representatives, co-hosted in London on January 24 & 25 by De Beers, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada.

During the 1990s and into the current decade, rebel armies in Angola, Sierra Leone and the democratic Republic of Congo exploited the alluvial diamond fields of these countries to finance their wars. "Conflict Diamonds" spread their tentacles into other conflicts as well - Liberia, Guinea, the Republic of Congo and elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a direct result of these wars, and many more died of indirect causes.

The issue of 'Conflict Diamonds' was brought to public attention by NGOs and the United Nations in 1998 and 1999, and in May 2000 the Government of South Africa convened a meeting, bringing together industry, governments and civil society in an attempt to find a solution to the problem. That first gathering, held in Kimberley, where South African diamonds were discovered 140 years ago, was the first in a series of more than a dozen meetings that came to be known as "The Kimberley Process". In a remarkably short time, the Kimberley Process was able to articulate a system for managing and certifying the internal & international trade in rough diamonds. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) came into effect on January 1, 2003, and required all participating governments - more than 40, plus those represented by the European Commission - to enact new diamond laws and regulations.

The KPCS remains a work in progress. It did not become fully operational until mid 2003, and the peer review system, which has now covered more than a dozen participating countries, remains voluntary. In addition, there are problems in the development of a fully consistent data base. The KPCS has been credited, however, with huge increases in official exports from Sierra Leone and the DRC, and with the ending of all official diamond trade with many countries accused of involvement in Conflict Diamonds. Participants in the KPCS ascribe its success to the willingness of a wide range of governments, civil society and the diamond industry (represented by the mining, trading and manufacturing sectors) to give each other space and respect, and to work (hard) together.

The Diamond Development Initiative emerges from a recognition of two things. First, the underlying problems of Africa's alluvial diamond operations and its estimated one million artisanal miners lie beyond the KPCS, and have not yet been addressed. This is a development problem and one with several security dimensions - human, local, national and international. Second, the example of the KPCS suggests potential for real change, change that could bring artisanal alluvial diamond mining into the formal sector, with major benefits for miners, governments and the diamond industry at large.

The London Meeting explored these issues. It was chaired by Walter Kansteiner (former US Assistant Secretary of State of Africa). It included representatives from governments, the United Nations, the European Commission, the foreign ministries of Britain, the United States and Canada, DFID, USAID, the World Bank, the diamond industry, & civil society organizations based in Europe, North America and Africa.

The meaning addressing the viability of establishing a development and regulatory environment in which alluvial rough diamonds can be mined and distributed for the greater benefit of artisanal miners, local communities, local governments, and the wider international diamond industry. The initial focus of the DDI will be central and western Africa with the primary objective of creating a multilateral partnership framework that will allow interested parties to pool their resources, experience and knowledge, and to integrate various initiatives that are being developed in this field. The response to the initiative, at the meeting and afterwards, has been very positive.

Two working groups were formed at the meeting to review challenges to and opportunities for positive change in the micro and macroeconomic contexts of artisanal alluvial diamond mining, and further meetings are planned in the near future.

The DDI will coordinate its work carefully with the Kimberley Process and other initiatives such as the Communities and Small Scale Mining initiative, chaired by DFID and housed at the World Bank.

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