"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


processes vs. institutions

Remind me again why we think this is going to work with the Congo's conflict minerals:
The KP review mission recently found that diamonds in eastern Zimbabwe are mined under conditions of serious human rights abuses, with endemic smuggling and rampant corruption, in breach of the standards set by the organization. But little can be done about it because the KP works by consensus. Because its members include Namibia, Russia and South Africa, which support President Robert Mugabe, the group decided in November 2009 not to suspend Zimbabwe or ban the sale of its stones.

The group's weak excuse was a technicality in the KP mandate that defines blood diamonds as those mined by abusive rebel groups, not abusive governments. Clearly, it should not matter who carries out the abuses. The Kimberley Process did urge Zimbabwe to remove its military from the diamond fields and make other crucial reforms, but the situation in the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe remains largely unchanged.

Despite Zimbabwean claims that the army was withdrawing, for the most part the diamond fields remain under firm military control, with smuggling, abuses and corruption unchecked. Blood diamonds from Marange continue to find their way into jewelry stores worldwide. The stones often get smuggled into world markets via unregistered traders in neighboring countries such as Mozambique or South Africa. These countries either do not or cannot certify the origin and flow of the stones, which then become intermingled with legitimate gems.
Eight years on, it's increasingly clear that certification schemes like the Kimberley Process only work in states that have strong, functioning institutions, or that are, at the very least, taking steps to establish those institutions. This is why I'm so skeptical about the potential effectiveness of the efforts to establish conflict mineral oversight processes in the DR Congo. (Jason Stearns summarizes those initiatives here.) It just won't work unless the country's basic security, legal, and border control mechanisms are functional. We are a long way from attaining those goals.


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