By Michelle Graff
This report from the Associated Press focused on the decision made regarding the monitoring of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields, with the failure to adopt a wider definition of “conflict” a close second.

The headline on the AP story read, in part, “Blood diamond watchdog eases restrictions on Zimbabwe gems.”

The restrictions referenced in the story were those that came about following the 2011 plenary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In agreeing then to allow for the resumption of exports from two mines in Marange, the KP dictated that before exports from additional mines could resume, they first must be visited by monitoring teams to ensure that security at the mines was sufficient to issue KP certificates in good faith.

Monitors from non-governmental organizations also were dispatched to the mines and to local communities, and all found that Zimbabwe had done what the KP had asked of it.

And so the monitoring requirement, initially put into place for one year, lapsed. There was no vote on the issue.

The decision regarding monitoring, as KP Chairwoman U.S. Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic so eloquently put it in a post-plenary interview Tuesday, “is not a commentary on the generality of the situation in Zimbabwe.”

In other words, as has been rehashed countless times, the scope of the KP is limited. The KP’s so-called easing of restrictions on Zimbabwe is not an endorsement of where the money from diamond sales is going or how journalists are being treated in the country as its presidential election nears. It is simply saying: Zimbabwe did what the KP asked it to do and so there weren’t any grounds for extending the one-year monitoring clause, period.

(It’s also worth noting that in a post-plenary release in which it said it was “encouraged” by the progress made at the meeting, Jewelers of America reiterated that U.S. sanctions still prohibit all citizens here from dealing with the Zimbabwean entities that own or control mines in Marange.)

Meanwhile, one item from the meeting that largely has been overlooked, amid all the excitement over the easing of restrictions and the failure of the process to agree on a new definition for “conflict,” is that Zimbabwe is a country that, seemingly, is keen on becoming more involved in the KP.

Zimbabwe won approval to join or participate in a total of five committees: the Committee on Rules and Procedures, the Working Group of Diamonds Experts, the Working Group on Monitoring and the Participation Committee and was accepted as guest participant in the Committee on KPCS Review, normally comprised of only current and past chairs.

When I asked Milovanovic about this on Tuesday she acknowledged that there is concern around making sure Zimbabwe’s increased involvement is “constructive.” At this just-past plenary, though, she notes that the KP members generally were cooperative and that no one member, including Zimbabwe, did anything to stymie the process’ progress.

Next year, South Africa takes over as chair of the KP and the largest issue on the table will be changing expanding the definition of conflict to include more general diamond-related violence, a measure that would expand the scope of the 10-year-old process and is badly needed.

How it will play out -- and what role a potentially more active Zimbabwe might play -- is anybody’s guess.

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