USAID and State Department shine spotlight on development to prevent ‘conflict diamonds’

Last week, the United States hosted the 2012 Intercessional meetings of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The KPCS is a voluntary process that diamond producing and diamond buying countries agree to, in order to prevent ‘conflict diamonds’ from entering the market. Ambassador Milovanovic and the State Department serve as the chair for activities this year; however, USAID is playing a role due to the increasing emphasis on development as a critical component to successful implementation of the KPCS.

Through implementation of the Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) Project, USAID has found that one of the most effective ways to address mineral conflict is to support economic development in the communities where these diamonds are produced, thereby reducing the dependence on small-scale mining and the potential for diamonds being used to purchase weapons. Despite clear linkages, such as those demonstrated by PRADD, development has not been at the forefront of efforts to support countries with their implementation of the Kimberley Process.

For this reason, USAID, the World Bank and the Diamond Development Initiative (an international NGO) convened a conference titled, Enhancing the Development Potential of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining. Hosting this conference immediately after official Kimberley Process meetings allowed government officials from diamond-producing countries, diamond industry companies, non-governmental organizations, and donor agencies the opportunity to discuss development models for addressing challenges facing artisanal miners.

USAID Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and the Environment Assistant Administrator Eric Postel opened the conference with these remarks, “USAID hopes this conference can further demonstrate the need to integrate development efforts within the Kimberley Process framework. Without improved governance and economic development, miners have limited incentive to operate within the rules of the Kimberley Process.”

Artisanal miners are the poorest of the poor, even though they produce some of the finest diamonds sold in the developed world. An estimated 20 million people rely on this work for their livelihoods with an additional 100 million reliant upon related services, yet artisanal and small-scale mining communities have little or no access to quality health care, basic education, and credit and financing. Conference sessions and many of the hallway conversations centered on the lessons learned and best practices to these socioeconomic issues, along with environmental concerns.

Sharing conference participants’ understanding of the wide range of challenges and possible solutions was the goal of the conference. Postel summed this up by commenting, “USAID hopes these lessons learned and best practices are shared and can serve as a basis for enhanced development of the artisanal mining sector and compliance with the Kimberley Process.”