Kimberley Process chairman calls for UN body to oversee global diamond trade

The UAE, as the chair of the Kimberley Process (KP) organisation that regulates the global diamonds trade, has called for a permanent body under the auspices of the United Nations to oversee the multibillion dollar business.

Ahmed bin Sulayem, who heads up the UAE’s KP chairmanship for 2016, has written to all members of the Civil Soc­iety Coalition (CSC), the group of non-governmental bodies involved in the diamond trade, asking them to back the new proposal for a UN body as a “genuine effort to bring back peace into the KP family in the interest of all stakeholders”.

Some civil society members representatives have been critical of the UAE’s chairmanship of KP, citing concerns about dia­mond valuation in the Dubai Diamond Exchange and its regulation of diamond traders in the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre free zone.

A spokesperson for Partnership Africa Canada, one of the most vocal of the UAE’s critics which has boycotted events help in Dubai, said: “The KP Civil Society Coalition is currently reviewing the letter it received from the KP Chair. However, the boycott for the plenary [meeting in Dubai next month] remains in place.”

The letter from Mr bin Sulayem is headed “proposal of remediation between the KP chair 2016 and the members of the Civil Soc­iety Coalition”.

It cites four areas of disagreement between civil society and the KP chair, as set out at the beginning of its chairmanship this year: the UAE’s valuation processes; its alleged lack of enforcement cooperation with trading partners; the absence of an enhanced vigilance system for diamonds coming from conflict zones like the Central African Republic; and “the need for a constructive and genuine engagement with the CSC”.

Mr bin Sulayem said in the letter that “especially on the issue of valuation and the CAR an enormous amount of work has been done”.

He has organised a series of workshops in Dubai and Europe on rough diamond valuation, in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, “which have made clear the issue is not as simple as sometimes it is claimed to be”.

He said that valuation should be done in all importing countries and not just the UAE, as some CSC members have requested.

On CAR, Mr bin Sulayem has visited the country and in April the UAE took over the lead of the team monitoring diamond production from some if its problematic areas. Some diamond-producing areas have been deemed KP-compliant and the country is taking action against illicit trading and smuggling.

He said the KP needs a “permanent secretariat under the wings of the UN” to take over work that is currently done by volunteers on an ad hoc basis. This body should be headed by an African expert in the diamond industry but funded by the rock diamond-importing countries of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, as well as the United States, Mr bin Sulayem suggested. “It is my strong conviction that the world needs to do better for Africa,” he said.

The letter invites all CSC members to the plenary meeting of KP to be held in Dubai next month and offers to pay travel and other costs at that meeting, and at the next big KP meeting to be held in Australia next year.

“We hope that the relationship between CSC and KP chair could be constructive in a mutual way and would not be an invitation for further criticism,” Mr bin Sul­ayem said.

The Kimberley Process began in 2000 when African diamond-producing countries met in Kimberley, South Africa, to discuss ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds and its financing of violent rebel movements.

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