A panoramic view of the Kasane region in Botswana, where the 2022 KP Intersessional meeting to place June 20-24.
The Kimberley Process, the international forum responsible for the coordination of the global certification scheme meant to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate supply chain, held the first of its two scheduled meeting for 2002 in the town of Kasane in Botswana from June 20 through June 24, not under most ideal of circumstances.
The challenge facing the organization was the participation of the Russian Federation, currently the target of economic sanction because of its invasion of Ukraine. For while rough diamonds are not directly involved in the war, the dominant Russian mining company, Alrosa, is 30 percent owned by the country’s government.
Prior to the start of the meeting, which was being hosted by Botswana, the current Chair of the KP, the Civil Society Coalition, which together with industry has observer status in the body, issued a statement in which, among other demands, it insisted that the Russian Federation be expelled from the body, “until it unconditionally ends its aggression against Ukraine.”
“Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, its accumulation of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, its continued choice for war over de-escalation, and the reported links between Russian diamonds and this conflict, completely erode the credibility of the KP Certification Scheme (KPCS), which claims to guarantee a conflict-free diamond trade,” the Civil Society Coalition contended.
A number of Western countries had reportedly requested that the agenda of the KP Intersessional meeting include a discussion on the impact of the war in the Ukraine, but this according to Reuters was torpedoed by Russia, with the support of Belarus, Central African Republic, Kyrgyzstan and Mali, who took advantage of the protocol that every decision in the KP, including the agenda, requires the consensus of all voting government members.
Reuters noted that the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States had also demanded Russia should step down from the KP sub-committees it currently chairs, which also was rejected by the Russians.
Indeed, a good deal of behind-the-scenes negotiations were required to even ensure that the five-day event could get beyond the ratification of the agenda, which needed to take place on the first day.
NEUTRAL BUT NOT POLITICALLY PATHETIC
In his address to the gathering once it finally got underway. Edward Asscher, President of the World Diamond Council, which represents the industry in the KP, noted the discomfort with what was happening in the Ukraine, but also warned about the danger of the situation paralyzing the Kimberley Process.
“While the WDC is politically neutral, it is not morally apathetic,” he stated. “We are deeply concerned for the safety of those affected by conflicts such as in the Ukraine and the Central African Republic. We are an organization dedicated to the eradication of conflict and the pursuit of human rights and dignity. We, therefore, pray that peace is restored as soon as possible.”
“As a KP Observer, representing the entire diamond industry value chain, the WDC remains committed to the Kimberley Process, especially as we know first-hand how diamonds do good to communities when managed properly,” the WDC President added.
WDC President Edward Asscher addressing the closing session of the Kimberley Process’s Intersessional Meeting in Kasane, Botswana, on June 24, 2022.
In his address, Asscher pointed to the proven ability of natural diamond resources to serve as a driver for the development of sustainable economies and societies. Since diamonds were discovered in Botswana in 1967, he said, the country’s GDP per capita grew at an average of 5.9 percent per year, the third highest rate anywhere in the world over the past 55 years.
Botswana, he stated “is the shining example of how the good fortune to be home to diamond deposits can be properly leveraged to achieve substantial economic and social development for all of a country’s citizens. Ultimately, is that not what we are committed to in the Kimberley Process?”
THE GLUE THAT HOLDS US TOGETHER
Asscher was decidedly more optimistic in the remark on June 24, at the close of the Intersessional meeting.
“This year, throughout our engagements with many government participants here in Kasane, there seems to be strong support for further reforms, including that of the ‘conflict diamond’ definition,” he told those gathered. The broadening of the definition to include all gross violation of human rights has long been a demand of the World Diamond Council, civil society and most of the Western governments in the KP.
Noting that he had begun the week of meetings with mixed feeling about the prospects for progress, the WDC President said he will be heading home from Botswana with a more optimistic feeling. “I feel more confident about the cohesiveness of the Kimberley Process,” he stated.
“The glue that holds us together is not reliant on there being one-mindedness on each critical issue – it never has been – but rather on the common belief that natural diamonds should be an equitable resource for growth, development and hope, and bring better lives and wellbeing for all people involved,” the WDC President said.
WDC President Edward Asscher (left), and WDC Vice President Feriel Zerouki, during the opening day of the Kimberley Process’s Intersessional Meeting in Kasane, Botswana, on June 20, 2022.