The Kimberley Process: Ensuring Ethical Diamond Trade

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), commonly referred to as the Kimberley Process, is a monumental international initiative established to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds. These diamonds, often termed as “blood diamonds,” are mined in war zones and sold to finance armed conflict against governments. This practice not only fuels violence but also exploits labor and disrupts local communities. The Kimberley Process aims to certify the origin of rough diamonds, ensuring they are conflict-free and ethically sourced.

Origins and Development of the Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process was initiated in May 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa, where diamond-producing countries met to discuss measures to stop the flow of conflict diamonds. The process officially commenced in 2003 after intense negotiations between governments, the diamond industry, and civil society organizations. Today, the Kimberley Process has 59 participants, representing 85 countries, including the European Union, which counts as a single participant.

How the Kimberley Process Works

The Kimberley Process operates through a detailed certification system, which each participant must adhere to:

Certification Scheme

Participants in the Kimberley Process must meet several stringent requirements to ensure that diamond shipments are conflict-free:

Export and Import Controls: Each participant must establish an effective system of internal controls to eliminate conflict diamonds from legitimate trade. They must also implement robust export, import, and internal controls.

Certification: Each shipment of rough diamonds crossing an international border must be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate, guaranteeing that the diamonds are conflict-free. These certificates are uniquely numbered, forgery-resistant, and contain specific details about the shipment.

Transparency: Participants must keep records of the production and trade of rough diamonds and submit annual reports detailing the steps taken to meet Kimberley Process requirements.

Monitoring and Enforcement

The Kimberley Process includes mechanisms to monitor compliance and enforce rules:

Peer Review System: Participants are subject to periodic reviews by teams consisting of government officials, industry experts, and civil society representatives to ensure compliance with Kimberley Process standards.

Non-Compliance and Sanctions: If a participant is found to be non-compliant, they can be suspended from the Kimberley Process, effectively barring them from the international diamond trade.

Achievements and Challenges

Since its inception, the Kimberley Process has made significant strides in reducing the flow of conflict diamonds:

Reduction of Conflict Diamonds: According to the World Diamond Council, the flow of conflict diamonds has decreased from approximately 15% of the global diamond trade in the 1990s to less than 1% today.

Economic Development: The Kimberley Process has helped stabilize economies in diamond-producing countries, fostering legal trade and economic development.

Despite these successes, the Kimberley Process faces several challenges:

Definition of Conflict Diamonds: The current definition focuses solely on diamonds used to fund rebel movements. Critics argue it should be expanded to include diamonds associated with human rights abuses and other forms of conflict.

Compliance and Enforcement: Ensuring consistent compliance and enforcement across all participants remains a challenge. Instances of smuggling and fraudulent certification have been reported, undermining the credibility of the process.

Scope and Coverage: The Kimberley Process covers only rough diamonds, leaving the trade of polished diamonds largely unregulated.

Future Directions and Reforms

To address these challenges and enhance its effectiveness, several reforms have been proposed:

Broadening the Definition

Expanding the definition of conflict lab made diamonds to include those associated with severe human rights violations could improve the Kimberley Process’s ability to ensure ethical sourcing. This broader definition would necessitate stricter oversight and more comprehensive certification criteria.

Enhanced Monitoring and Enforcement

Strengthening monitoring and enforcement mechanisms is crucial. This could include more frequent and rigorous peer reviews, increased transparency in reporting, and tougher penalties for non-compliance. Enhanced cooperation with law enforcement agencies and international organizations can also aid in tackling smuggling and fraud.

Incorporating Polished Diamonds

Extending the Kimberley Process certification to polished diamonds would close a significant loophole in the current system. This would require new regulations and coordination with industry stakeholders to ensure traceability throughout the diamond supply chain.

Role of Civil Society and Industry

The involvement of civil society organizations and the diamond industry is vital to the Kimberley Process’s success. NGOs play a critical role in monitoring and reporting abuses, advocating for reforms, and raising public awareness. The diamond industry, on the other hand, must commit to ethical practices and support initiatives that promote transparency and accountability.

Consumer Awareness and Demand

Educating consumers about the origins of their diamonds and the importance of purchasing conflict-free stones can drive demand for ethically sourced diamonds. Retailers and jewelers should provide clear information and certification to reassure consumers of their products’ ethical provenance.


The Kimberley Process remains a cornerstone of efforts to eradicate conflict diamonds from the global trade. While it has achieved notable success, ongoing challenges necessitate continuous improvement and reform. By broadening its scope, enhancing enforcement, and fostering collaboration among governments, industry, and civil society, the Kimberley Process can further its mission to ensure that diamonds symbolize love and commitment, not conflict and suffering.