By Michelle Graff
Luanda, Angola--The 11 organizations that comprise the Kimberley Process’s Civil Society Coalition confirmed Tuesday what has been inevitable for several months--that they will boycott the KP next year due to their objections over the United Arab Emirates’ impending election as chair.

Back in September, when it was announced that the UAE had been elected vice chair and thereby was in line to chair the KP in 2016, Partnership Africa Canada’s Alan Martin told National Jeweler that a boycott by the Civil Society Coalition was the most likely scenario heading into 2016.

This week, the coalition’s representative from Cameroon, Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo, confirmed it in a speech given Tuesday as the KP plenary meeting got underway in Luanda.

Calling the UAE the “go-to place for illicit gold and diamonds” and Dubai an “ethics-free haven,” Bamenjo brought up the same concerns that civil society has been expressing about the UAE for some time--that it is too lax in its controls regarding diamonds emanating from problematic areas of the world and that UAE companies engage in transfer pricing.

Transfer pricing refers to the practices of undervaluing a resource--in this case, African diamonds--in order to make more money and reduce tax liabilities while, at the same time, depriving local governments of the true value of their resources.

Bamenjo said despite the UAE’s commitment to working with civil society on at least two collaborative projects, the two haven’t had any discussions since the KP’s intersessional meeting in June.

He said the coalition doesn’t have any confidence in the UAE as chair and, if its nomination is formalized, it will be “sending a message that civil society is no longer a meaningful and respected partner [in the KP].”

The UAE fired back on Tuesday, releasing a statement calling the coalition’s public remarks “an unacceptable account of industry matters, baseless and factually flawed.”

It also produced two emails to refute the coalition’s claim that the UAE hasn’t been in touch since the intersessional, which took place June 22 to 26.

One was a request for a meeting dated Aug. 30. The second, which was about conducting a study on supply chain due diligence for diamonds, was dated June 23, meaning it was sent during the intersessional, not after it.

When asked about these emails, a UAE spokeswoman acknowledged that the study email was indeed sent during the intersessional, but said the UAE KP’s team question is this: Why hasn’t the coalition been in touch with them to follow up on the study proposal?

The UAE said while it was disappointed that the Civil Society Coalition will be boycotting the KP in 2016, it remains open to working with civil society or any industry organization in a position to contribute “fairly and transparently” to discussions on the KP.

As KP chair next year, the UAE said it will “carry on with our mandate and focus on areas that will have the greatest impact on growth and development of the diamond industry. We remain fully committed and respect the tripartite structure of the Kimberley Process.”

The KP’s Civil Society Coalition is comprised of 11 international and community-based organizations, nine of which are based in Africa.

While the coalition plans to boycott formal KP events in 2016, it said it plans to continue to work with KP participants and members of the diamond industry on matters of mutual concern and redouble its efforts on national-level engagement with KP participants. 

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