Johannesburg: Civil society members of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) will boycott the organization next year in protest at the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) chairmanship of the international body that combats conflict diamonds. The 11 members of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition say the UAE’s chairmanship crosses a red line due to “widespread concerns over UAE’s lenient standards and antagonistic relationship with the Coalition,” according to a statement from Partnership Africa Canada (PAC).
“Judging by UAE’s favored status as the go to place for illicit gold and diamonds, it would appear Dubai is not only a tax-free haven, but an ethics free haven as well,” Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo, the Coalition’s representative from Cameroon told Kimberley Process members gathered in Angola which is the current KPCS Chair.
The UAE claims to have traded approximately $40 billion worth of diamonds in 2014, making it the third-largest diamond trading center in the world. “In the last year, repeated concerns have been raised by Partnership Africa Canada, Amnesty International, the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic, and others about negligent import controls that allow illicit diamonds from conflict areas such as the Central African Republic to enter the legitimate supply chain. Concern has also been raised about the undervaluation of diamonds entering the UAE. In 2014, exports of diamonds from Dubai were on average 40 percent higher than their original import values.
Despite repeated calls by civil society members to justify the practice of “transfer pricing,” Dubai has stayed silent on the faulty valuations which deprive African diamond producing countries from much needed revenues.” PAC’s Director of Research, Alan Martin, said: “We have been calling on Dubai to change its harmful diamond trading practices. If they want to be a leader in the Kimberley Process, they need to act like one. Dubai needs to improve its trade practices, and lead the way on governance issues.”
The Coalition has tried to work over the past year with the UAE to address the UAE’s “governance vulnerabilities, improve its antagonistic approach to civil society, and forge a working relationship ahead of its time as chair. However, in recent months, the Coalition came to discover that it lacked a sincere partner in this effort. Our Coalition has a long history of collaborating with governments and industry towards our common goal of a clean, conflict-free, traceable supply chain,” said Michel Yoboué, the Coalition’s representative from Côte d’Ivoire. “This is the first time we have faced a KP chair that does not respect the tripartite structure of the Kimberley Process. Today, the other members of the Kimberley Process have sent the message that the input of civil society is no longer valued in this system,” he added.
The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition will continue to work directly at the national and regional levels to strengthen governance of the supply chain, including in forums outside of the Kimberley Process, the statement concluded.