By Michelle Graff
New York--The United Arab Emirates has been elected vice chair of the Kimberley Process for the remainder of 2015 and, barring anything unusual, will take over as chair in 2016, the president of the World Diamond Council confirmed Thursday to National Jeweler.

Edward Asscher said members of the KP took an email vote to elect the UAE as vice chair, and that the nation would assume the chairmanship role on Jan. 1, 2016. Under the KP bylaws, the vice chair takes over as chair the following year.

The KP has spent the majority of 2015 without a vice chair (and a chair-elect for next year) due to in-fighting that began in late 2014 over what nation would be up next to lead the process.

Russia, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo pushed for the UAE to become vice chair while the United States, Israel, Canada and Botswana backed Australia, which ultimately, and surprisingly, withdrew its bid around the time of the KP intersessional meeting in June.

In a statement released following its election, the UAE mentioned strengthening the ties among the three pillars of the KP--governments, the diamond industry and civil society--as one of its goals as chair.

So far, however, its relationship with civil society remains rocky.

Alan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada, one of the non-governmental organizations involved in the KP and the organization that is the coordinating body for the KP’s civil society coalition, said the UAE has broken a couple of agreements it has made to work with civil society on issues including transfer pricing--undervaluing African diamonds in order to make more money and reduce tax liabilities while, at the same time, cheating governments in Africa out of money.

For some time, the civil society coalition’s mandate has been that it will boycott the KP if the UAE is elected chair.

Martin said while no final decision has been made, it seems that that is the most likely scenario at this time.

He said that a boycott does not mean, though, that the organizations won’t work on issues surrounding conflict diamonds and artisanal mining but rather that they will not be attending any meetings in Dubai and will not recognize the UAE as chair.

Martin said the KP’s civil society coalition expects to reach a final decision on the boycott early next week.

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