Conflict diamonds captured the world’s attention during the extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. Illicit rough diamonds were also used by rebels to fund conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

The Kimberley Process (KP) started when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000, to discuss ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. By November 2002, negotiations between governments, the international diamond industry and civil society organizations resulted in the creation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). It was launched at the start of 2003.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme requires the governments of diamond producing countries to issue certificates for diamonds from conflict-free mining areas. Countries that are members of the Kimberley Process are barred from importing diamond without KP certificates.

The system involves the examination and certification by KP-approved government bodies of rough diamonds extracted at legitimate mining sources. Only rough goods that carry bona fide KP certificates can gain entry into the trading and manufacturing centers, where there, too, they are examined by KP-approved government bodies.

Each member country is required to pass legislation that provides the KPCS statutory status, and to establish local a local KP authority that is charged with monitoring the flow of diamonds in and out of the country, and issuing KP certificates for local rough diamond exports.

The Kimberley Process is open to all countries that are willing and able to implement its requirements. Today, it has 54 participants, representing 81 countries, with the European Union and its member states counting as a single participant. KP members account for approximately 99.8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds.

Among the KP members is the Republic of Panama, meaning that only rough diamonds from a KP-member country can be imported into Panama.

The impact of the introduction of the KPCS system upon the trade in conflict diamonds was dramatic. Not only did the incidence of such diamonds in the legitimate pipeline fall from an estimated 4 percent to less than two tenths of 1 percent, but the drying up of funds to rebel groups was considered to have played a vital role in the ending of civil war in Sierra Leone, Angola, the DRC and Liberia.