His Excellency Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary for Foreign Trade & Industry, UAE Ministry of Economy, and the UAE Kimberley Process Chair (KP Chair) Ahmed Bin Sulayem, welcomed over 300 delegates, including Civil Society, to Dubai for the Kimberley Process Plenary Meetings (13-17 November) today at The Westin Dubai, Al Habtoor City.
Established in 2003 by the United Nations, the KP is a collaborative tripartite initiative involving governments, industry and civil society, and is focused on stemming the flow of conflict diamonds globally. Participating countries seek to ensure that unregulated rough diamonds do not enter the legitimate diamond trade as a means to finance conflicts.
During the course of the past ten months as KP Chair for 2016, the UAE has proposed a number of initiatives and historic proposals aimed at strengthening the KP mandate, as well as focusing on the beneficiation of Africa as to ensure producing countries on the continent receive their fair share from the diamond trade.
Keynote addresses were delivered by H.E. Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary for Foreign Trade & Industry, UAE Ministry of Economy; Ahmed Bin Sulayem, UAE Kimberley Process Chair; and Andrey Polyakov, President of the World Diamond Council.
In his welcome address, H.E. Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary for Foreign Trade & Industry, UAE Ministry of Economy said: “Trade in diamonds, jewellery and precious metals are key pillars in the UAE foreign trade; in fact, the country was the third largest importer of diamonds globally after India and Europe in 2015 and the second largest exporter globally after Europe. The diamond trade is certainly a key sector that contributes to the UAE’s position today as a global gateway for trade, and a reliable partner for many nations around the world.
“During our tenure as Chair of the Kimberley Process we have been focusing our efforts on creating a fairer distribution of wealth for rough diamond producing nations; encouraging a more open and transparent method of valuation; and visiting and establishing dialogue with countries who are looking to either enter or re-enter the Kimberley Process. To that point the KP Chair has visited 14 African countries so far, meeting not just with leaders across the continent, but also with farmers, labourers and miners whose voices in many cases were being heard for the first time.”
During his opening remarks, Ahmed Bin Sulayem, KP Chair, said: “Taking on the Chairmanship of the KP this year has been a historic event, but also, I hope, a natural one. We have extended a welcome to every part of the Kimberley Process family and I hope you will agree that no agenda has been bolder, no issues more fundamentally critical to the success of the organisation, than what we are here to discuss today. The world demands more and more of us, and we need to understand what we can do, should do, and what is – and will remain - frankly beyond our remit.”
“We have three major initiatives to discuss this week including the steady march towards a common approach to valuation; the move to establishing an efficient Permanent Secretariat, commensurate with the extraordinary tasks and responsibilities that the Kimberley Process family takes upon itself; and the independent funding of Civil Society. I am grateful for, and humbled by, the task that we have been set. But I am proud of us all here today, proud of the progress that we have made this year, and I am immensely optimistic for the future.”
Remarks followed from the World Diamond Council President, Andrey Polyakov. Representatives from the Civil Society Coalition did not attend the meeting despite the open door policy pursued by Mr. Bin Sulayem.
Recently, the KP Chair shared an invitation with the CSC to join the plenary along with a remediation proposal providing an in-depth response of how previous issues and concerns raised by the coalition at the beginning of the UAE KP Chairmanship have been addressed.
Reflecting on the progress made in the first nine months as KP Chair, Mr. Bin Sulayem highlighted the key developments and initiatives put forward since the beginning of the UAE’s KP Chairmanship. After six years of Venezuela unilaterally removing itself from the initiative in 2008, the UAE KP Chair secured confirmation of the country’s intent to rejoin and initiated a written procedure for their re-admission to the KP. Also, significant progress has been made in the Central African Republic where diamond trading had ceased recently due to security concerns and non-compliance with KP protocols. After the UAE KP Chair took over the lead of the CAR Monitoring team, four zones are now considered compliant for export.
Mr. Bin Sulayem’s speech also focused on the importance of leveling the playing field between importing and exporting countries while ensuring African source markets receive their fair share of the diamond production. Under the umbrella of the ‘Africa Initiative’, Mr. Bin Sulayem conducted visits to 14 African countries. These visits focused on understanding the challenges that are facing African countries and garnering more support for the KP as nations expand their diamond production and export ambitions. Additionally, the UAE KP Chair visits countries that play a leading role in the diamond supply chain which include India, Russia, and Armenia.
Addressing the KP community and industry stakeholders, Mr. Bin Sulayem provided an overview on the two historic initiatives proposed by the UAE KP Chairmanship, which will be the subject of discussion throughout the week. These include the establishment of a Permanent Secretariat for the KP under the United Nations, with funding from diamond consuming nations and led by an African national with in-depth knowledge of the process, as well as the creation of an independent fund for NGOs involved in the initiative in order to effectively harness the Civil Society’s potential. The UAE KP Chair announced that it will contribute US$ 25,000 towards the establishment of this Fund, with Australia - the KP Vice Chair - looking to potentially match this amount. Mr. Bin Sulayem has also called on the rest of the industry to contribute another US$ 55,000 to create a total Fund of US$ 105,000.
A key topic throughout the meetings was the subject of rough diamond valuation, an issue deemed complex, but crucial, for the diamond industry as a whole. In an unprecedented move, the UAE KP Chair hosted a series of KP Special Forums on rough diamond valuation, the last was held on 13 November as a precursor to the KP Plenary. Building on discussions from previous forums, participants discussed the generic set of valuation criteria including a methodology based on reverse engineering, as well as other systems and processes.
Mr. Bin Sulayem concluded, “It has been a great honour to have served my country in the capacity of KP Chair. Moving forward, we will continue to work with the KP community and extend our knowledge and resources to strengthen the mandate, as well as promote best practices in the diamond industry. In this way, we can ensure that the diamond industry is built on strong foundations, with sustainability and fairness embedded across the supply chain. We look forward to a series of fruitful meetings this week and, hopefully, we will reach a set of concrete and actionable steps tackling essential issues for the benefit of all stakeholders.”
H.E. Abdullah Al Saleh concluded: “We commend the efforts undertaken in the past period towards adding value to the KP and strengthening the mandate; we acknowledge that the progress is an ongoing process and we look forward to more cooperation on an international level to ensure the diamond trade is conflict-free.”