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From Dubai, A Puzzling Press Release Follows KP Plenary

SourcingNov 21, 2016

From Dubai, A Puzzling Press Release Follows KP Plenary

The Kimberley Process chair touted the passage of two “historic” agreements but others are saying that’s actually not what happened at the meeting.

Incoming Kimberley Process Chair Robert Owen-Jones (left), current Chair Ahmed Bin Sulayem and World Diamond Council President Andrey Polyakov at the recent KP plenary meeting in Dubai. The chair said following the plenary that two major proposals passed, but the official record of the meeting indicates otherwise.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates--Following the Kimberley Process plenary meeting in Dubai, the KP chair nation touted the passage of two “historic” proposals, which would be a huge step for a process that’s perennially unable to move forward on substantive issues.

The only problem: It doesn’t seem that either of the agreements actually passed.

On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates sent out a press release stating that at the meeting, members of the KP had reached a “historic agreement,” voting to approve the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the process and a proposal to establish a common fund for its Civil Society Coalition, the group of NGOs involved in the process.

The release, which was picked up by trade websites IDEX Online and Rapaport, quoted KP Chair Ahmed Bin Sulayem as saying that, “The historic decisions made today will have an enduring impact on the long-term sustainability of the KP and the diamond industry. 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. I look forward to working closely with the next KP chair to ensure these initiatives are implemented efficiently and effectively.”

The release also stated that both proposals would go before the United Nations General Assembly for adoption before the end of the year.

However, several people with knowledge of the situation told National Jeweler that neither of these proposals passed at the meeting, with one observer calling the UAE’s press release a “mischaracterization” that is “quite unprecedented.”

The final communiqué from the meeting posted on the KP website backs this up, as it states that the plenary “recognized the effort and took note of” these two proposals made by the KP chair and “looked forward to continued discussion of these proposals under the incoming chair.”

It states nothing about either proposal passing, and their alleged “historic” passage also wasn’t mentioned by World Diamond Council President Andrey Polyakov in his closing remarks at the plenary.

In fact, according to a transcript of those remarks shared with National Jeweler, Polyakov said: “We believe it is necessary to work further on key initiatives such as the establishment of a permanent secretariat and an independent fund for financing the participation of NGOs.”

When asked about the discrepancy between the press release and others’ accounts of the meeting, a spokesman for the KP

chair said on Friday, “The principles were adopted as reflected in the Final Communique, and will now need to be worked out further in detail. Per procedure, all that was adopted in the final communique goes for approval in a UN resolution. Without an annual UN resolution, the KP stops to exist.”

The KP chair did not respond when pressed further on the issue.

Dan Thomas, a spokesman for the president of the UN General Assembly, did not respond to multiple inquiries regarding the KP.

The press release distributed by the KP chair following the plenary caps off a year in which Bin Sulayem has been very active, traveling to multiple diamond-producing countries, initiating a series of workshops on rough diamond valuation, and pushing the ideas of both a permanent secretariat and funding for the Civil Society Coalition.

In addition, 2016 marked the resumption of rough diamond exports from several areas of the Central African Republic, a nation that had been suspended from the KP since 2013.

But the year has also been one in which Bin Sulayem’s statements to the press have been called into question multiple times, including this one regarding the KP Civil Society Coalition just before the plenary.

And Bin Sulayem has been unable to mend fences with the coalition, which stood by its year-long boycott of the process and still is undecided on what it will do in 2017, said Zuzia Danielski, a spokesperson for Partnership Africa Canada, a coordinator for the coalition.

At the plenary, the KP did vote to readmit Venezuela, which voluntarily withdrew in 2008.

KP members also came to an agreement that Australia would be the next nation to head the process.

Robert Owen-Jones, who is the assistant secretary of the Australian Competitiveness Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will be representing his country as chair.

Also at the plenary, the KP selected vice chairs for the next two years.

The European Union was tapped for the position in 2017 and India for 2018. This means the EU is in line to chair the process in 2018, followed by India in 2019.

In a press release sent out by the WDC following the meeting, Polyakov called the selection of two vice chairs an “extremely important precedent” that “will allow the KP to look ahead even further, empowering the stability and consistency of the organization.”
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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