By Michelle Graff

For about 45 minutes on Tuesday morning, Kimberley Process Chairwoman Gillian Milovanovic did something unprecedented in the history of the 9-year-old process. She hosted a video web chat open to anybody who wanted to listen.

032312_Graff,-Michelle-blog-shotAccording to her office, the web chat drew more than 150 viewers from 24 countries, including the U.S. embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe. The ambassador’s office also released a list of 15 countries with the highest participation numbers; curiously, the United States was not on the list.

Following the chat, a discussion continued on the KP’s Facebook page.

Having just worked with National Jeweler contributor Pete Vernon on a lengthy Q&A with Milovanovic and having read a number of similar articles, much of what was discussed was not news to me.

A few of the more interesting elements of the chat are below.

-- The process’ complete-consensus voting model, which has its critics, might not be addressed during the U.S.’s one-year term as chair. Milovanovic said that decision-making is “something the Kimberley Process is looking at or will be looking at ... if not this year than next year in the course of the South African chairmanship.” She also noted that the issue isn’t just consensus but decision-making as a whole and that perhaps the process should examine forming a steering committee or some type of board that assists in making decisions throughout the year.

-- The U.S. doesn’t want to be seen as a bully. “We were very pleased to have been selected to chair this process. In being selected, we also were very conscious as the United States that we weren’t going to establish our agenda and impose it on anyone,” she said. “This is a process that operates by consensus and, in essence, we wanted to be giving an impetus, to be giving a certain direction. Ultimately whether our concept of the issues to be looked at was correct would be answered by the membership itself.”

-- Making changes that require massive legislative overhauls isn’t a good thing. During the chat, someone asked a “very important” question: would proposed changes to the KP require countries to alter their government’s legislation? Milovanovic said the process should examine areas--such as enforcement, monitoring and peer review--that could be improved via better implementation and won’t involve country representatives having to return home and try to get laws changed.

“I think this is, looking ahead in the Kimberly Process, a very important thing because it seems to be doubly challenging to think of change and having to do a lot of legislative changes. And it’s very important that the nations involved understand that there are many, many things that we can look at, and that I hope we will look at in the year ahead, that will not require massive legislative change,” she said.

-- The ad hoc committee will meet this month. Last November at the plenary, the process formed an ad hoc review committee, chaired by Botswana and co-chaired by Canada, to re-examine how the process is, and isn’t, working.

That committee is currently collecting input from other KP members, and Milovanovic said she believes they are meeting this month to go over those responses.

--Venezuela and the KP are on speaking terms. The South American nation, which withdrew voluntarily from the process in 2008, did “provide some materials” to the KP and is engaged in a dialogue with the process.

-- Officials from Zimbabwe are expected to attend the intersessional in June. “We have every expectation that Zimbabwe will have a delegation here and we look forward to it,” she said. “I might add that I also had an opportunity to speak with Zimbabwean officials who were present at the mining (conference) in Cape Town (South Africa) and we had a good conversation.”

At the beginning of the chat, participants were told they could ask questions via Twitter using the hashtags #KimberleyProcess or #KPchair. I tweeted twice, asking first what countries outside of Africa the KP would focus on this year. (Lebanon comes to mind as one that might bear some looking into.) 

I also asked if the ambassador foresees any non-governmental organizations stepping up to join the KP, taking the place of the now-departed Global Witness.

As I am sure was the case with many other questioners, the 45-minute session was up before the ambassador could address my inquiries.

Still, it was 45 minutes more than I’ve gotten with any other KP chair and marked a new era (or perhaps just year?) in transparency for the process.

Will a chat like this, or similar engagement, happen again? It doesn’t seem out of the question. 

“I’m very pleased we had this opportunity and I would like to see us continue, whether in this particular format or in any other way,” Milovanovic said in concluding the chat. “I think that exchanging information, transparency of this type is extremely important for people to understand what the Kimberley Process is, what it isn’t and what it might become.”

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