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World Diamond Council proposal breaks Kimberley Process ratification impasse

A proposal by the World Diamond Council (WDC) managed to break an impasse at this year’s Kimberley Process (KP) meeting, in Botswana, during which a communiqué had to be ratified by consensus on the implications of the war in Ukraine on the Kimberley Process.

For several hours during the final session of the four-day event in early November, the delegates had debated how to refer to an early set of requests to KP chairperson Jacob Thamage for a formal discussion on the war’s implications and their relation to the KP.

The request was opposed by several countries, which under the consensus decision-making system was sufficient to ensure that it did not appear on the agenda; however, a number of governments insisted that the refusal to hold a debate be added to the official record of the meeting.

After long discussions, during which the unprecedented possibility of a plenary closing without a final communiqué loomed, the compromise text offered by the WDC was accepted after minor adjustments were made by both sides.

Following the agreement, WDC president Edward Asscher paid tribute to Thamage, saying he was “certainly the right person at the right time”, and that Thamage had to be admired for his perseverance during the long night.

“We are proud that the WDC has made an important contribution to assist him in successfully concluding the discussions,” said Asscher.

Many hours earlier, the KP plenary approved an administrative decision to form an ad hoc committee to oversee the next KP review and reform cycle, which takes place every five years, and which will start in 2023.

The administrative decision named Angola and South Africa as respectively the chair and vice chair of the ad hoc committee, and listed key subjects that would be discussed.

Asscher welcomed the new administrative decision and expressed satisfaction that the “conflict diamonds” definition in the KP’s certification scheme’s core document would be high on the review and reform cycle’s agenda.

“I have spoken at length about the shortcomings of the existing definition and the degree to which it threatens to render the KP certification scheme as irrelevant among diamond consumers,” he said.

Asscher added that, although he did not expect the coming debate to be easy, it was an area in which failure was not an option. “I felt here that all countries present accept the need for change.”

Another milestone at the plenary was the acceptance of the recommendation of the tripartite technical expert team, chaired by the WDC, that Botswana be the host of the new KP permanent secretariat.

The plenary also accepted the permanent secretariat’s proposed budget, to which the WDC has committed to make a substantial contribution.

Going forward, work will start in early January on physically establishing the permanent secretariat in Gaborone and appointing its staff, with the goal to start operations on January 1, 2024.

The plenary also heard that the Central African Republic (CAR) remained an area of grave concern, with the CAR government having requested that five new sub-prefectures be approved as KP-compliant, in addition to the eight that were already approved.

Before that could occur, Asscher said, the newly-appointed panel of experts would need to submit a report to the CAR monitoring team regarding the political and security situation on the ground and a review mission be undertaken.

Prior to this year’s meeting, Thamage had written to all the relevant parties to gauge the possibility of conducting a review mission to the CAR. However, the security of such a review mission needed to be taken into account.

As such, the KP has contacted the CAR government, the head of the United Nations’ (UN’s) mission in the CAR and the head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR, in this regard.

However, to date, he said no replies had been received, meaning that the KP’s CAR mission effectively remained in limbo.

The mission would be charged with examining the effectiveness of a new operational framework for monitoring KP-compliant exports from the CAR.

The KP plenary also confirmed that Zimbabwe would take over as KP chair at the beginning of 2023, and the United Arab Emirates was ratified as KP vice chair in 2023, becoming KP chair in 2024.

Asscher congratulated the incoming KP chair, saying the KP wished Zimbabwe the best of luck, as it was a job requiring hard work, wise counsel, diplomatic skill and a deep understanding of the diamond industry, the countries in which it operates and the people and communities that are its stakeholders.

“With the eyes of the world upon it, we hope that its term as KP chair will be as good for Zimbabwe as it will be for our industry,” he said.

Following the plenary, several members of the WDC delegation departed for an official visit to Zimbabwe, whereby they intend to start discussions on cooperation with the incoming KP chair. – (Mining Weekly)

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