The World Diamond Council has distanced itself from a speech by member Peter Meeus in Angola criticizing the NGO community.
“I completely disassociate myself and the WDC from Peter Meeus’ remarks,” WDC president Eli Izhakoff tells JCK. “The NGOs are a vital part of the Kimberley Process.”
Last week at an Angolan conference, Meeus, the current chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange, slammed the Civil Society Coalition for promoting “fantasies [which] some would call lies.”
Meeus singled out two examples—a 2011 BBC documentary on “torture camps” in the Marange region of Zimbabwe and reports on “daily killings” in the Luanda provinces of Angola.
“If there would be one hair on my head that believed that two years ago the Marange military had a torture camp, I would not set one foot anymore in Zimbabwe,” the Dubai exchange chairman declared. “And neither would a lot of us.”
“If there are human rights violations, they need to be judged by independent institutions that are really independent and are respected as such, that don’t cook stories for the sake of their own further existence,” Meeus said.
He added that the industry’s relations with NGOs “have degraded to a point well below zero.”
“Why are the NGO’s suddenly so dissatisfied with the accomplishments of the KP and the diamond industry,” he asked. “Could it be that the NGO’s themselves are fighting for their own relevance?”
A full transcript of his remarks is available here.
Informed of the WDC’s disavowal, Meeus tells JCK the group “risks alienating itself further from the entire diamond industry [whose] interests it should defend. If people are afraid to speak out because of NGO reactions … I am happy to be their voice, because it is the voice of the silent but overall majority of the trade, certainly in the non-western hemisphere.”
NGOs, not surprisingly, blasted back at Meeus’ remarks.
The speech was “silliness on a grand scale,” says Alan Martin, research director of Partnership Africa Canada. “It doesn’t do the [United Arab Emirates] any favors, certainly not if U.A.E. intends to be the KP chair, when you have an individual of such prominence with the Dubai community saying erroneous things about one of the pillars of the KP, and appearing so out of touch about what is happening in Africa.”
Martin counters that the reports of human rights violations in Marange and Luanda are “not hypothetical, but reality.”
“I don’t think [Meeus] has any first-hand information,” he adds. “He has never spoken to anyone who has been on the receiving end of some of these things.”
Martin also argues that the situation in Luanda is not just a concern of NGOs, but that the issue has been raised by the head of neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
He also disagreed that the relations between industry and the Civil Society Coalition had hit a new low. “There was a period of time in 2010 and 2011 when relations with industry were very strained,” Martin says. “I don’t think that is any mystery or any secret. But if you look at the work that has been done over the last few years, there is very little difference of opinion between Civil Society and industry.”