The civil society coalition that traditionally participates in the Kimberley Process will sit out next year’s meetings in response to United Arab Emirates serving as 2016 chair.
The organizations said selecting the UAE as chair crossed a “red line,” citing continued concerns over “lenient standards” and transfer pricing in Dubai, as well as the country’s often-antagonistic relationship with NGOs.
“We have been calling on Dubai to change its harmful diamond trading practices,” said Alan Martin, Partnership Africa Canada’s director of research, in a statement. “If they want to be a leader in the Kimberley Process, they need to act like one.”
In a statement, the UAE pronounced itself “disappointed” with the decision.
“We remain committed to engaging with civil society, one of the three founding pillars of the Kimberley Process,” it said.
The boycott has been brewing since this summer, when the UAE was elected vice chair, the traditional stepping-stone to the top role, over NGO objections.
While Dubai and the KP NGOs have long had a stormy relationship, there have been some efforts at a rapprochement. At this summer’s meeting, Dubai presented an ambitious reform agenda, which many thought out of a character for a center often considered hostile to reform.
The civil society coalition statement said it “has tried to work with the UAE to address its governance vulnerabilities, improve its antagonistic approach to civil society, and forge a working relationship ahead of its time as chair. However, in recent months, the coalition came to discover that it lacked a sincere partner in this effort.”
In response, the UAE called the NGO statements “baseless and factually flawed,” producing two emails from Dubai Diamond Exchange chairman Peter Meeus to meet and discuss supply chain due diligence.
Martin responded: “The [first] emails were sent during the [June] Intersessional. We acknowledged receipt and said we would consider the UAE’s proposals. Since the Intersessional there has been only silence. The second email was an invitation to meet for a chat. There was no explicit request to enter in a dialogue about ‘cooperation’ or any specific project.”