UAE Could Become KP Chair Even as NGOs Consider Boycott

United Arab Emirates will likely serve next year as chair of the Kimberley Process, despite opposition from nongovernmental organizations. 

It will be the first Arab country to head the certification scheme, meant to stamp out conflict diamonds.

In a statement, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) executive chairman Ahmed Bin Sulayem said he looked forward to working with “government and industry groups” during the UAE’s chairmanship.

Left off that list were civil society groups, the third arm of the KP’s tripartite structure. NGOs have often feuded with officials from Dubai, the UAE’s primary diamond center. (The DMCC statement later says it wants to strengthen ties between the KP’s three pillars.) 

Officials did not answer queries on whether a 2016 vice chair was chosen, though Australia had vied for the chair role, so it would seemingly fill the role of understudy.

Alan Martin, research director for Partnership Africa Canada and spokesperson for the KP civil society coalition, says that the UAE was simply chosen as this year’s vice chair, with the expectation it will take the top role next year. He adds that the UAE’s ascension could cause NGOs to boycott next year’s KP meetings. 

“We oppose [UAE’s] chairmanship because of concerns about their internal controls related to illicit minerals (gold and diamonds), their antagonistic approach to civil society and their general lack of constructive leadership in the KP,” he says.

Martin says, earlier this year, the civil society coalition attempted to forge a new relationship with the UAE leadership.

“Unfortunately UAE did not live up to their side of things, and our engagement has since ceased,” he says. “Despite commitments they have made to the KP following intersessional, there has been no attempt by UAE to reach out to the Coalition.”

In June, the UAE presented a vision for its chairmanship, which surprised some with its ambition.

JCK News Director