The Kimberley Process Just Passed Two Historic Proposals. Or Maybe Not

For the third time this year, controversy arises over the KP chair’s statements

It’s happened again. 

This morning, the PR firm for Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the current Kimberley Process chair representing the United Arab Emirates, sent out a press release with big news:

KP Plenary reaches new historic agreement on permanent secretariat and NGO fund proposals by UAE KP Chair

Key participants in the global initiative voted to approve the KP Chair’s ideas to establish a Permanent Secretariat and to set up a common Fund for NGOs. …

Approval for the Permanent Secretariat will see the establishment of a body that is dedicated towards addressing the KP’s current structural challenges. …

“The historic decisions made today will have an enduring impact on the long-term sustainability of the KP and the diamond industry,” said [chair Ahmed] Bin Sulayem. “We are very proud of the way that the KP family has come together to enact these vital proposals that will lend greater structure and transparency to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.”

These represent goals long sought by reformers, and their passage would be a surprising cap to Bin Sulayem’s busy, if often controversial, year at the helm. Yet, for the third time this year—see here and here—Bin Sulayem is now seeing his press statements disputed.

“It’s kind of shocking how this statement mischaracterizes what has transpired,” says Partnership Africa Canada’s Zuzia Danielski, spokesperson for the Civil Society Coalition (CSC), which is boycotting this year’s sessions due to the UAE’s chairmanship. “It really is unprecedented.”

Danielski says that the proposals have not been approved; instead, the plenary simply agreed to tackle them going forward.

At press time, the chair’s PR firm has not responded to an inquiry from JCK. However, the final KP communiqué seems to back up the CSC’s comments. It does not mention passage or adoption. It simply reads:

The Plenary recognized the effort and took note of the proposals made by the KP Chair to (1) develop a methodology on rough diamond valuation, (2) establish a Permanent Secretariat for the Kimberley Process, and (3) establish a Civil Society Coalition (CSC) fund. The Plenary looked forward to continued discussion of these proposals under the incoming Chair.

The Plenary welcomed a proposal received from the KP Chair aimed at strengthening the structure of the KP through the establishment of the KP Secretariat.

“Nothing was agreed,” says one industry source, quoting the communiqué, “but much appreciation was given.”

Danielski adds that the NGOs don’t object to the general idea behind the proposals put forward by the chair, though they have some objections to the NGO funding proposal. They also want to see more details.

“They are great ideas in principle,” she says. “These are proposals that are previously put forward during past reform years. But we are calling for more rigor and greater definition.”

Next year, current vice chair Robert Owen-Jones, representing Australia, takes over the certification scheme. Australia is generally considered sympathetic to KP reformers, and the final communiqué offers the CSC the latest in a series of olive branches.

“The Plenary reaffirmed its commitment to the tri-partite structure of the KP,” it says. “Noting that the CSC decided not to attend KP meetings this year due to a number of concerns, the Plenary expressed its desire for broad CSC participation in the future.”

It also notes that four NGO representatives did attend this year’s meeting.

Even so, the CSC clearly remains angry about its often-bitter enemy’s ascension to the top spot. And Danielski has disappointing news for those who hope things can pick up where they left off.

“We will not be returning to status quo in January,” she says. “We are evaluating all our options.”

 

JCK News Director