Centre fears broader definition of ‘conflict diamond’ may hurt trade by India, others

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on April 23, 2019

Inclusion of human rights abuse, child labour issues may be used to target poorer countries

India is concerned that the proposed widening of definition of ‘conflict diamonds’ under the Kimberly Process, as suggested by developed countries such as the US and Canada, to include human right abuses and child labour issues may end up as a non-tariff barrier for developing countries.

“New Delhi will raise its concerns on the proposed broadening of definition of conflict diamonds at the meeting of the ad hoc committee overseeing the review and reform of the Kimberley Process in Paris this week. We have to make sure that this does not end up as an exercise that may be used to target the business of poorer countries,” an official told BusinessLine.

India is the world’s largest centre for cut and polished diamonds and accounts for 75 per cent of the world’s polished diamonds exports. The sector is labour-intensive and employs over 4.64 million workers, which is expected to go up to 8.23 million by 2022, according to government estimates. The Kimberley Process Certification System (KPCS) is a joint initiative of 54 members, including India and the EU, to stem the flow of ‘conflict diamonds’ that are used by rebel groups to overthrow legitimate governments. It came into effect on January 1, 2003 through a United Nations General Assembly Resolution and includes governments, civil societies and the industry.

Human rights abuses

Over the last couple of years, however, a number of members including Canada, the EU and the US have been complaining that the process addresses a very narrow band of issues and ignores the rest.

While the concerns are largely based on reports of human rights abuses in the diamond fields of Zimbabwe and Angola which includes killing of villagers, India is afraid that once the exercise of broadening the definition of conflict diamond begins, many other issues could get incorporated and a lot of subjectivity may flow in.

“We are against human rights abuse and labour law violations, but there are other agencies including the UN Human Rights Commission and the ILO to address them. The Kimberly Process was never meant to address such issues. While countries like Zimbabwe and Angola need to be checked, India and some other developing countries engaged in peaceful trade should not be at the receiving end,” the official said.

Rough diamonds trade

India, which is the chair of the KPCS this year, will host the plenary meeting later this year in which attempts are likely to be made by several developed countries to get members to agree on a widening of definition of conflict diamonds.

“New Delhi has to step very carefully especially since India is the chair this year. It has to mobilise other developing countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Brazil and Vietnam to oppose unintended barriers to trade,” the official said.

Canada, in last year’s plenary meeting in Brussels, put forward a proposal to expand the definition of conflict diamonds to include rough diamonds used by public security forces or private (including criminal or mercenary) armed groups to acquire wealth through the illegal control, bribery, taxation, extortion or dispossession of people.

Published on April 23, 2019

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