The Kimberley Process forum was established in the year 2000 following a public debate as to whether the diamond trade funded conflicts in certain countries, as bloody civil wars that took place in Sierra Leone and Angola were linked to the battle for control of the countries’ diamond mines. The natural resources of these countries, including diamonds, were used by rebel groups to buy weapons and therefore the trade in these diamonds is described as the ‘blood diamond’ trade or ‘conflict diamond’ trade. A civil war also took place in the Congo and the diamonds there were also given the label of conflict diamonds.
The blood diamond issue underwent a public debate, and the United Nations, with the assistance of non-governmental organizations that had examined the issue of conflict diamonds, claimed that the trade in conflict diamonds encouraged wars in African states. The United Nations Security Council imposed decisions 1173 and 1176 imposing sanctions on trade in blood diamonds from Angola.
South Africa, Botswana and Namibia - African countries where there were no civil wars and where the diamond trade was legal - wanted to protect their legitimate trade in diamonds.
Despite the fact that the trade in conflict diamonds represented a very low proportion of the global diamond trade - some 4% - it caused image problems for the diamond industry all over the world. The diamond sector did not want to be garner a negative reputation like the fur trade did.
These African countries initiated a conference and invited the non-governmental organizations as well as representatives of the diamond sector. The issue for debate was how to deal with the problems of conflict diamonds. The first such forum took place in the town of Kimberley in South Africa, hence the name the Kimberley Process
Over the years, the forum established follow-up procedures, documentation and control over the movement of rough diamonds in the world. The forum set up the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which requires all rough diamond imports and exports to be accompanied by a formal certificate of the exporting country.
Participating in the Kimberley Process today are 54 members, representing 80 countries. Countries not complying with the required conditions are suspended from the scheme, and trade in diamonds with countries that are not participants of the KPCS is prohibited.
The Kimberley Process went into effect on 1.1.2003 and Israel was the first country to issue a certificate. The Kimberley Process forum meets every year, in a different country, and discusses the issues related to strengthening and updating the controls over conflict diamonds. In 2010, Israel held the position of Chair of the Kimberley Process, and this year, the Kimberley Process conferences were held in Israel.