in The Business of Jewelry on March 14, 2014
The Ivory Coast was once the economic powerhouse of West Africa. A very stable and affluent country that had managed to avoid a civil war that had plagued so many of its neighbors. Unfortunately in 2002, a full blown civil war erupted tearing the country into a rebel held north and a government held south.
The country’s plentiful natural resources became the key to financing the conflict. In 2005, A UN Panel of Experts report found that the rebels were using cocoa, cotton and diamonds to fund not only their war effort but also their own pockets. The rebels controlled the diamond producing parts of the country. Hence, the UN ban on rough diamond exports from the country. There was not a ban put on cocoa, more on that later.
The Ivory Coast was deemed compliant by the Kimberley Process in November. The current goal is to ‘strongly urge’ the United Nations to lift the embargo on the nation’s diamond exports at a scheduled meeting next month. The UN’s Security Council said last year that it would review the band on the country’s diamond trade, which was put into place in 2005 following the country’s 2002-2003 civil war because of the steps taken by the government toward becoming KP compliant.
What is the Kimberley Process? The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds, rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. In May of 2000, a forum was held in Kimberley, South Africa to discuss the issues of surrounding conflict diamonds. This meeting signified the start of the Kimberley Process. In May of 2003, three years later, the KP was fully implemented in all participant countries. Only participant countries are now allowed to trade in rough diamonds with each other. The KP is alive and well and continues to grow and expand.
At the KP’s plenary meeting held in November, members agreed unanimously that the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) is now compliant under the Kimberley Process Certification scheme. A clear signal has been sent to the UN that conditions in the country are suitable for the diamond trade to resume.
Given the stamp of approval from the KP, Fatimata Thes, the head of the diamond sector in the Ivory Coast’s Mining Ministry, plans to travel to New York in April to “show what efforts we’ve made and demand the lifting of this embargo, which is hurting our population”.
Ms. Thes said that the government now has a system in place to register diamond workers and track production with a total of 10,000 carats stockpiled in anticipation of the end of the embargo. “Lifting the ban would help the country fight poverty” said Thes.
While there are several diamond producing nations that remain at odds with the KP, the Ivory Coast is currently the only country in the world whose diamond trade is banned by the UN.
A brief side note, the country is also the world’s largest producer of cocoa and cocoa makes up 35% of the country’s export earnings. In 2007, Global Witness published an investigation into how the high demand for cocoa was fueling the conflict. In order to receive cocoa, the international cocoa exporting companies contributed significantly to the finances of both the government and the rebels. The cocoa has always flowed to all corners of the world, there was never a ban on cocoa. Did 1st world big business get it’s way? Moral food for thought.