The power of dialogue and collaboration

Following last month’s highly successful Kimberley Process intercessional meetings, I summarise some of the key moments, the progress made and what we can expect in the lead up to the KP plenary meeting in November.

By Ahmed Bin Sulayem

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Ahmed bin Sulayem with other delegates at the Kimberley Process’ intersessional meeting in Dubai. — Supplied photo
Ahmed bin Sulayem with other delegates at the Kimberley Process’ intersessional meeting in Dubai. — Supplied photo

Published: Wed 29 May 2024, 4:32 PM

Last month, Uptown Tower played host to the Kimberley Process’ intersessional meeting where a broad spectrum of stakeholders from the world’s diamond industry convened to strengthen its resolve in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds. Typically comprised of an intercessional followed by a plenary meeting later in the year, this event not only featured several firsts, but was geared towards successful outcomes courtesy of the sheer volume of bilateral meetings and visits to KP member countries made in the first half of the year. Thanks to this groundwork, the foundation was laid to ensure positive debate, thereby supporting greater progress on site.

In the spirit of the “Year of Delivery”, a special session of plenary was also included; a first for the KP, and a highly effective way of expediting our decision-making processes. This year’s intercessional also included the first ever panel of evidence, with contributions made directly by community representatives on the first-hand impact of diamond mining, as well as a panel of experts to discuss and expand on the definition of what constitutes a conflict diamond. This year’s intercessional also included a DMCC forum titled Provenance, Traceability and Technology, designed to highlight the extensive opportunities available in tech to support the KP’s long-term targets, including one of our most pressing targets, that of digitising KP certificates on the blockchain.

Complete with representatives from civil society, working groups and delegations from participating nations, the Kimberley Process is often referred to as the KP family, and for good reason. Not only were there many familiar faces from my first chair in 2016, but many more now close friends, thanks to our shared commitment to raise industry standards, and Dubai’s status as the global hub for rough diamonds. While there are too many people to name, I was particularly delighted to welcome Bojun Tang in his capacity as the KP’s first permanent secretariat, and to congratulate him on his significant progress in getting the KP’s offices underway in Gaborone.

Amongst the various conversations and meetings to take place over the week, some of the most productive and informative sessions included the discussion surrounding the definition of conflict diamonds. As a topic raised in light of the world’s ongoing volatility and various conflicts, the information provided by the community panel helped to add depth, while flagging both challenges and opportunities.

Another one of the key developments was the consensus reached on the option to have a co-chairmanship of the KP during one calendar year, an idea conceptualised by the World Diamond Council, under the leadership of President, Feriel Zerouki. Commenting in her summary of the intercessional, Zerouki emphasised the council’s belief in “promoting inclusive representation and equitable access to opportunities for all KP participants to lead the KP”, which “is now a possibility!”

As a highly anticipated subject, the high-level attendance of delegates from the Central African Republic perfectly illustrated the tone of the event, and its openness to discuss challenges in a clear and transparent manner. Since its initial embargo in 2013, the KP has worked with the CAR to utilise its operational framework to develop a roadmap, with the end goal of welcoming the CAR back to the KP. On this basis, while working with MINUSCA to address the current challenges in country, we anticipate the Working Group of Monitoring (WGM) arranging a review mission in the near future, to determine how diamonds can be used to support the CAR’s diamond industry, and by extension, its people.

As mentioned in my previous piece, the success of our collaboration with countries such as Sierra Leone need to be more widely discussed as examples of how the KP has truly delivered meaningful impact at a macroeconomic level. As the world’s eighth-largest producer, Sierra Leone has increased the compound annual growth rate of its production by 31 per cent in five years and is expected to rise by a further two per cent between 2022 and 2026. As a member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) and through diligent, internal controls and technology, Sierra Leone is recognised as having one of the strongest chains of custody in the world for its diamonds. Additionally, by working with its neighbouring countries, Sierra Leone has effectively disincentivised smuggling, meaning the government captures a fairer share of the wealth generated by its natural resources.

Tangentially, the intercessional was also an opportunity for me to highlight the absence of conversation surrounding the world’s illegal arms trade, and how the KP could work with specialised NGOs, regulators, and arms manufacturers to create a system of accountability which would not only proactively understand the scale of the problem, but present solutions on how to solve it. While I appreciate this will require immense resources, as well as a unified, multi-stakeholder level of cooperation, ignoring the fact that light weapons are the proverbial stick of the conflict diamond business will not help us address and close the remaining balance of the problem. Having discussed this at length with many attendees, it is my intention to address this cancer, which goes beyond stemming conflict diamonds and into de-escalating a climate of fear, particularly for mining communities.

In line with the KP’s commitment to innovation, as well as the vital requirement to integrate tech into the diamond industry, the DMCC special forum, which focused on Providence, Traceability and Technology was both well attended and well-received. Featuring several of the world’s leading tech providers, including Sarine Technologies, GIA, iTraceiT, Tracr (DeBeers), Opsydia and DiaTech amongst others, the open event invited stakeholders to better understand how the industry’s digitisation could support many of its prevailing challenges, while increasing efficiency and transparency.

As a UN-mandated organisation, the success of our shared ambitions has always been contingent on collaboration, not only from our 85 member countries, including the European Union, but also from within our tripartite structure. On this note, I would like to extend a special thanks to the invaluable contribution of the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) and all the observers, not only for their recent work, but for positively contributing towards meaningful discussions that will yield tangible results. It is through this sort of dialogue and collaboration that the Kimberley Process will achieve its long-term, unofficial mission of making the diamond industry a role model for which other commodities should aspire.

In concluding this year’s intercessional, I am filled with hope that through a convergence of technology, and our collective willingness to bring meaningful change, we have the power to affect positive outcomes that will benefit producing countries, consumers, and the industry’s estimated ten million stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on it.

The writer is executive chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.

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