Earlier this year, we reviewed the film Blood Diamond, and we outlined how the film was based on a report written by our friends at corruption-fighting organisation Global Witness called A Rough Trade. The report exposed how diamonds mined in Angola fueled a bitter civil war, and it led to the creation of the Kimberley Process, an international certification scheme designed to stop the trade in blood diamonds.
Last week, Global Witness withdrew from the Kimberley Process, because they're worried that countries and companies are letting blood diamonds back into markets. As an issue that we care about, we wanted you to know, and with permission of Global Witness, below we've republished a message from Global Witness Founding Director Charmian Gooch on why they are leaving the Kimberley Process.
The diamond trader looked me in the eye and said "If I don't buy them somebody else will". He was talking about blood diamonds from Angola, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. It was 1997 and I was sitting in a cramped and anonymous office in Antwerp. I had just returned from investigations in Angola that revealed the awful truth that diamonds were funding and fuelling conflict and the world didn't appear to realise there was a problem. Millions of people were caught up in the horror of this protracted war, with many hundreds of thousands dead, maimed, or homeless.
Following more research and investigations in Europe, Africa and America, Global Witness launched a campaign to alert the world to what was happening in late 1998. We questioned the accepted view that this was just how the diamond trade worked, and challenged governments, the United Nations and the industry to face up to responsibilities and do something about it.
There was a swift response and recognition of the problem from all involved and mass media coverage internationally. An increasing number of other campaigning groups took up the issue and the Kimberley Process (KP) - a global scheme designed to break the links between diamonds and conflict - was negotiated and then launched at the start of 2003.
The diamond-fuelled wars came to an end for a range of reasons, and countries put in place systems and structures to control the trade in rough diamonds. So that should have been deemed a success, right? Sadly not. Global Witness and a coalition of NGOs - the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition - have pushed continuously to make the KP work. However, the shameful truth is the governments just won't hold each to account.
For its part, the diamond industry avoided regulation at the time the Kimberley Process was set up by undertaking to deliver a meaningful supply chain control scheme. But nine years on, the industry's 'system of warranties' lacks independent verification. The fact is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, or whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.
The world has moved on but the Kimberley Process remains stuck in time. Ever more insular, the KP has spent the past few years lurching from one shoddy compromise to the next in a manner that strips away its integrity and undermines its earlier achievements. The KP has failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d'Ivoire, breaches of the rules by Venezuela and diamonds fuelling corruption and state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe.
Most recently, the decision to endorse unlimited diamond exports from named companies in the Marange region of Zimbabwe - the scene of mass killings by the national army - has turned an international conflict prevention mechanism into a cynical corporate accreditation scheme.
We now have to recognise that this scheme, begun with so many good intentions, has done much that is useful but ultimately has failed to deliver. It has proved beyond doubt that voluntary schemes are not going to cut it in a multi-polar world where companies and countries compete for mineral resources.
The Kimberley Process's refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated. It is time for the diamond sector to start complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure. Governments must show leadership by putting these standards into law.
On 30 November, at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, a historic moment was seen as government ministers agreed that they would make their aid transparent by 2015.
The run up to the meeting was marked by a number of donors publishing data to the registry of the Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), In addition to this, the US (the worlds biggest donor), Canada, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development signed up to IATI, taking the total number of signatories to 26 or, in monetary terms, over three quarters of international aid flows.
This huge progress could not have happened without the dedication and support of nearly 64,000 people from 218 countries, many of whom are Global Poverty Project supporters who have been campaigning hard on this issue all year.
Before the meeting at which the petition was handed over, jigsaw pieces made from a board identical to that used for the handover were placed around the plenary room, leaving hundreds of country delegates confused and intrigued.
The ‘completed’ jigsaw was then handed over to the Swedish Minister for Development Cooperation at the front of the conference hall.
The pieces were shared out to demonstrate the fact that a small piece of the puzzle (or one bit of aid information) is of little use on its own – it’s only when you have all those pieces together (or all donors’ aid information in one place) that the component parts make sense, gain value, and ultimately become useful.
As aid spending becomes more transparent, we can make sure aid money has the best possible impact, and gets to those who need it most. Aid donors will be able to coordinate with each other, reducing waste and overlap; developing country governments will be able to plan better and citizens will be able to hold their governments to account. More transparency will help reduce corruption too.
Thank you to all our supporters and those across the world who signed the petition and called on governments to make their aid transparent, there has been huge progress made because as Amy Barry, Campaigns Director at Publish What You Fund said: “[The petition] demonstrates the widespread and irrefutable demand from citizens from all over the world for more transparent aid.”
Corruption. It is a one of the biggest barriers to ending extreme poverty and prevents genuine sustainable development. Although it is a worldwide phenomenon, it has a particularly devastating impact on those that are most vulnerable.
In order to access basic services such as security, health, and education, many communities in the developing countries need to rely on the government and public services. Corruption in these public institutions worsens the already heavy economic burden of people with low levels of income and living in extreme poverty. Corruption hinders the ability of the impoverished population to break out of the poverty cycle, and diverts critical resources away from development projects.
Out of all the institutions that were indicated to have been involved in corruption, either through implicit or explicit demands, the law enforcement sector emerged as the most bribery prone sector across Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda. As the report concludes, the police and the revenue authorities across the region have dominated the top positions.
It is shocking to think that an institution that is supposed to tackle crime and injustice commits these acts itself. Who then can the people turn to when they encounter unreasonable demands in exchange for public services that they are entitled to?
A more shocking result from the report is the number of cases of corruption that are actually reported. In Tanzania, only 6.9% of the respondents who experienced a bribery demand have reported the cases, and this figure drops to a mere 3.2% in Burundi. It is not surprising given the level of corruption within the law enforcement sector.
Some of the most commonly cited reasons for not reporting cases of corruption are lack of faith in the government to actually react to these reports, lack of knowledge and information as to where and how to report these cases, and fear of intimidation. In such a climate of insecurity and fear, corruption is thus allowed to flourish and continuously erode the potential of both the government and its citizens. The lack of faith in the government is an important social consequence that can severely hinder progress and sustainable development. In addition, donor countries will be more doubtful towards funding development projects in countries with a high prevalence of corruption.
To combat corruption in the public sector, it is critical to ensure the people see reporting corruption as worthwhile. The first step in encouraging people to report cases of corruption is to strengthen the credibility of public institutions. Given the prevalence of corruption in the law enforcement sector, this is an immensely difficult task, but by no means impossible.
Transparency International has published a Working Paper on Making Government Anti-Corruption Hotlines Effective and proposes several strategies for combating corruption. Other than recommending functional and organizational changes, the paper emphasizes on the importance of being able to report cases anonymously and having explicit government support for tackling corruption in the country.
Referring back to the East African Bribery Index, in Uganda 61.1% of people felt that the government is not committed to the fight against corruption. Restoring people’s faith in the government and public institutions is critical.
Corruption can mean the difference between life and death. In a society where services such as security, health care, and education can only be bought with money, corruption has penetrated into every aspect of people’s lives. But by empowering people to stand up against corruption, this is a war we can win.
You can join us and our movement for justice by adding your details to the form below, and we will contact you with actions you can take.
Let me tell you a story about poverty and prosperity.
It begins with a natural resource. A massive opportunity buried, beneath the ground, with the ability to bring huge wealth into a country and allow citizens to secure their own future and fight poverty.
However, too often the wealth generated by the natural resources doesn’t go towards improving the lives of the citizens. Instead meetings take place behind closed doors, and decisions are made out of sight meaning the money goes to only a few, leaving many worse off than before.
If governments and companies operated openly, this would allow the people they represent to hold them to account. The money brought in could create jobs, hospitals, schools. We could create a fairer world.
Equatorial Guinea is an example of the problem that exists. It had the 12th highest gross domestic product in the world in 2008, with more than $30,000 per capita.
It also ranked 121st out of 177 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (a composite of life expectancy, educational attainment and income measurements that attempt to show a more accurate portrayal of someone’s life).
On 25 October, the US Department of Justice filed an asset forfeiture claim against a $30m Malibu house, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet and other assets owned by Teodorin Obiang, the son of the Equatorial Guinea’s leader, who as a government minister was earning a reported salary of just US$4,000 a month. This sent a clear statement that “the United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world’s corrupt leaders”. However, we need to put laws in place to avoid this kind of corruption from occurring in the first place rather than react after the corruption has occurred.
The returns from the ownership of natural resources in Africa are over $400bn/year, whereas aid to Africa is less than $50bn/year. So this money represents a huge opportunity for ordinary citizens to secure their own future. That opportunity will be missed if they don't have the ability to hold their leaders to account for how that money is spent.
In October 2011, the European Commission made proposals for updating the EU legislation to require greater transparency by oil, gas and mineral companies.
This legislation would be a crucial step forwards in fighting corruption, but getting this legislation passed is a tough job. The European Parliament alone consists of 736 MEPs from the 27 member countries. There are lobby groups from the extractive industries pushing hard for the legislation to be watered down.
And then there's us.
We, the people they represent, need to use our voices in support of the legislation and to let the MEPs know that we support greater transparency in natural resource industries.
Join us in our campaign for justice by writing to your MEP to find out their position on the proposed legislation and help citizens of these countries to secure their own future.
With the bribery act now enshrined in British law, we have "sent a strong message that the UK government does not condone bribery and corruption". However, this message is being undermined by a department within our own government.
Previously, we wrote about the UK government’s Export Credits Guarantee Department, a government department that uses taxpayer money to back exports to the developing world by British companies. When things go wrong, the amount that needs to be paid back becomes debt owed by the developing country to the UK.
To date, this department has generated over 95% of developing country debt to the UK and yet refuses to disclose any details on the source of those debts. To further compound this injustice, the department lacks any effective checks and balances to guarantee their deals are corruption-free, nor do they have a policy of debarring companies found guilty of corrupt activities.
In short – there’s no way for us to know that the ECDG aren’t complicit in fuelling human rights abuses, environmental destruction and exacerbating poverty.
As you can see from the video below, produced by our partners at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, for the launch of their new Clean Up Britain’s Exports website, the ECDG has been popularly renamed as the Department for Dodgy Deals for good reason:
We cannot allow this state of affairs to continue unchecked. No one should have to pay a debt when the lender refuses to explain its origin, for projects that entrench poverty or for crimes against them. Debts such as those for the supply of aircraft and tanks to the oppressive Suharto regime or the construction of a hydroelectric dam built on a known earthquake fault, in a region that often suffers drought are unjust. They must be cancelled and restrictions put in place to avoid such debt being created in the future.
That’s why we’re supporting the campaign being run by the Jubilee Debt Campaign calling for a full, public audit of the debts owed to the ECDG.