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Peter Meeus Responds to Belgium's Resolution on Kimberley Process

Feb 20, 2014 1:40 PM   By Peter Meeus
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RAPAPORT... I nearly fell off my chair when I recently read the motion for a resolution of the six  federal government parties in Belgium, with the bold theory that the fight against “blood diamonds” has failed. Now that the resolution has been approved, I am even more amazed.  (Editor's note: Read the full resolution here.)

As former director-general of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), I was very closely involved in setting up the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the supervisory body for diamonds recognized the world over. Its principles had actually been written in our offices in Antwerp.

It was not easy, as the Belgian government felt that we did too little, and the diamond sector in Antwerp was of the opinion all that was not necessary. But we have continued as it was a good cause. We then worked very closely with Global Witness, the NGO most involved, to elaborate a fair and honest system.

In 2014, diamonds are the most strictly checked raw material in the world. With the exception of uranium, no other raw material is so strictly controlled and observed as if the case of rough diamonds. More than 99.8 percent of all diamonds produced are certified by the Kimberley Process. Problem countries, such as the Central African Republic (CAR), Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Venezuela, do not even represent 0.2 percent of the world production.

Already in April 2013, at which time problems started in CAR, the Kimberley Process -- of which I am part on behalf of the United Arab Emirates -- had taken measures to ensure that the country could not export illegal diamonds any more. That way, the Kimberley Process was the first and only system to ensure, in a very short time, that rebels did not get the opportunity to finance their war with the sale of rough diamonds.

Human Rights

Can that be said of any other mineral, let alone any other diplomatic initiative? Contrary to what is assumed and suggested in the Belgium resolution, diamonds are pioneers and should be considered as a model for other raw materials.

The media and politics are, however, systematically fed by messages, falsely or politically inspired or not, about constant human rights violations in the exploitation of diamonds. Since the Hollywood film “Blood Diamond” (2006), everyone seems to accept that unquestioningly.

What is it about the relationship of the diamond sector with the NGOs that has deteriorated so much? It was excellent, once. Why are the NGOs so dissatisfied with the achievements of the Kimberley Process and the diamond sector?

Certainly can’t be because there are more conflict diamonds than 12 years ago. So why are they? Maybe because the NGOs themselves have become small enterprises and the availability of funds have decreased, so the competition for survival has therefore increased? Did their need to boast originate there? Is it not possible that diamonds have become part of NGOs' core business so that “blood diamonds” need to continue to exist?

Could we possibly consider the economic context for a moment? It is an open secret that the NGOs working in the field of minerals are especially subsidized by western powers. Has anyone ever made the connection with the declining economic importance of the major superpowers in Africa, especially now that China has become the first economic power in the world with business transactions worth $3.82 billion? That a kind of cold war is going on in Africa -- to control essential raw materials.

Non-Issue

Even if that would not be the intention of the NGOs, it is perceived this way by all my colleagues in southern Africa, where I have been spending one third of my time for some years already. Add the fact that Russia, China, India, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Arab Emirates have gradually grown tired of the situation that a small minority of member states continue to impose their agenda on the majority in the decision-making process of the Kimberley Process. And in the name of human rights, but nobody believes that any more.

The resolution of the majority party already shows with which party Belgium sides in this debate. And this for a non-issue in a sector that already has a hard time to stand it's ground and is discarded once again.

That human rights must be respected is beyond question. There are enough organizations that judge these issues in all objectivity, such as authorities who do not depend on their financing, by foreign governments, and that try to achieve an economic advantage and very successfully manipulate the media.

Isn't it time to brush aside that dirty business reputation? Who is 100 percent perfect? Is 99.8 percent not good enough? After all, there are hardly any conflict diamonds these days.



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Tags: Belgium, commission, Dubai Diamond Exchange, Europe, human rights, Kimberley Process, Peter Meeus, resolution
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