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A Way Forward In Zimbabwe

Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe. (file photo).

The Kimberley Process met and approved an administrative decision that will allow exports from two industrial diamond mines in Zimbabwe's Marange fields.

The international group created to prevent trade in conflict diamonds is moving to allow Zimbabwe to resume selling gems mined from an area where state-sponsored human rights violations occurred in 2008. The Kimberley Process, or KP, was launched in 2003 to prevent the sale of rough diamonds from financing wars against legitimate governments. On November 1st in Kinshasa the KP met and approved an administrative decision that will allow exports from two industrial mines in Zimbabwe's Marange fields. It also outlined a process for other mines to export rough diamonds after a monitoring team verifies compliance with the KP’s minimum requirements. Zimbabwe has agreed to allow civil society representatives into the Marange area and to take steps to regularize the artisanal mining sector and to combat illegal mining and smuggling.

The Marange issue was contentious because the KP was not designed to address the kind of state-sponsored violence that occurred in Zimbabwe in 2008. Nor was it designed to deal with the human rights abuses that reportedly still occur there, sometimes at the hands of the mining companies themselves.

As the KP’s incoming Chair in 2012, the United States will work with governments, civil society, and the private sector alike to make sure that the KP remains relevant in dealing with a potentially broader range of issues related to conflict diamonds.

Now that Zimbabwe has the green light to move forward with exports from Marange under the Kimberley Process, it is the government's responsibility to ensure not only that human rights are respected in the Marange region as the diamond industry regularizes, but also that the revenues generated from the sale of diamonds are handled in a transparent manner and are used to benefit the Zimbabwean people.