Many African diamond industry players attending a sectoral conference in Johannesburg next week will be taking their measure of the new chairwoman of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, U.S. Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, who says she will use her tenure to update policies and operations for the organization.
Milovanovic told journalists this week that the U.S. will use its chairmanship to lead the diamond watchdog group to review its goals, successes and weaknesses.
One particular focus will be to revise historical definitions that do not address situations in which diamonds are linked to human rights abuses. The existing definition of “conflict diamonds” fails to encompass many problematic situations, in particular those in which states rather than rebel groups may be committing such human rights abuses.
"We have an ambitious agenda. It's one whose goals are very much in line with what the KP itself has already determined needs to be looked at," Milovanovic said.
"I would say that consensus and seeking consensus is going to be the biggest part of the job... in order to move the Kimberley Process forward."
Asked about Zimbabwe's Marange diamond field and Kimberley's decision last year to authorize exports of its gems, she said the Marange case "showed that there was need to look at systems, to look at definitions, to look at ways to ensure that [the Kimberley Process] could determine best ways to become efficient and to remain relevant."
Ambassador Milovanovic said that only Cote d’Ivoire diamonds now match the conflict diamond definition which takes in less than 1 percent of world production.
Senior researcher Allan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada said the U.S. has a great responsibility in re-defining the Kimberley role and making sure it stays relevant.
Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said problems in the Kimberley Process may continue to block efforts to revitalize the organization, especially given Zimbabwe’s prominent position in the debate.