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Israel Committed to Three Initiatives for KP

Jun 22, 2010 9:45 AM   By Boaz Hirsch
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RAPAPORT... The following speech was delivered by Boaz Hirsch, chairman of the Kimberley Process (KP), at the opening of the KP's intersessional meeting in Tel Aviv on Monday.

His Excellency, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Mr. Binyamin (Fouad) Ben Eliezer; Director General of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, Mr. Sharon Kedmi; Vice Chair of the KP, Mr. Yamba Lapfa Lambang; Distinguished participants, dear Kimberlites:

It is truly a privilege to host here in Israel all the esteemed participants of the KP. I wish to thank you all for coming to Israel to attend the intersessional and in such a massive turnout. Welcome to Israel.

As you all know, I am a newcomer to the KP, which has captured me with its complexity, uniqueness and wide-scale effect.

As chair, I am committed to the process and its spirit: to guard the fine equilibrium between, on the one hand, the production of rough diamonds and their contribution to the creation of prosperity and. on the other hand, defending the fundamental respect for human rights, as stated in the core documents of the KP.

This is the cornerstone of the moral and legal validity of the KP. This is a responsibility shared by us all.

We can only fulfill it if all the parties to the KP are allowed to operate in a free and autonomous manner. To that aim, we have to be continuously cognizant of the different contributions of the three pillars of this process — States, Civil Society and Industry and what they each represent.

I wish to reiterate the importance that all voices of the KP be heard. Within the framework of this process, the voice of the Civil Society is a unique yet fragile one and we are all under the duty to act in vigilant manner to enable it to operate unhindered otherwise, a void will be created within us that will be detrimental to the holistic nature of the KP.

Last November, on the foot of the majestic sand dunes of Swakopmund, Namibia, the plenary of the KP adopted the Joint Work Plan (JWP) aimed at resolving the issue of rough diamond exports from the Marange area in Zimbabwe.

Though not perfect, the JWP is an exceptional instrument that demonstrates both the flexibility and strength of the KP. Much of our time in the coming three days will be dedicated to the issue of the implementation of the JWP and how we, as the KP, are going to navigate ourselves around this question to an agreed and acceptable mode of operation that will ensure compliance with the KP's standards and, at the same time, advance Zimbabwe toward exports of rough diamonds from the Marange area.

The events of the last days cannot be ignored. The arrest of an NGO representative, Mr. Faraj Maguwu, on June 3 for breach of Zimbabwe law has created a whirlpool of negative emotions and high tensions among our participants that threaten to deviate us from the agreed-upon route toward an applicable solution in regard to exports of rough diamonds from Marange, with all the desired consequences.

In this regard, difficult decisions await us that will affect the international diamond community in all its various facets.

We are all required to demonstrate maturity and flexibility. The KP standards must and will be upheld. At the same time, consideration will be given to the uniqueness and special needs of each participant and efforts will not be spared in order to find the ways and means to accommodate it.

Though the current events are of immense gravity and attract substantive resources from us all, Israel as a chair is committed to jointly develop a vision for the KP that focuses on capacity building in order to ensure and further develop the vitality and sustainability of the Kimberley Process in the years ahead.

To that end, we have developed three initiatives that will be presented here before you, and I aim to bring them all for resolution this coming November at the Plenary.

The three initiatives are:

Enforcement: Our aim is to create a multi-annual road map that will build capacities and cement strengths in the important area of enforcement. It is my strong belief that a KP with an indigenous contribution in the area of enforcement is a much stronger process and that can provide an answer to many of the difficulties we currently face.

To that end, we have reached out to the World Customs Organization (WCO) in order to revive the cooperation between us and them on issues of enforcement. In February of this year, I met the secretary general of the WCO and together we established a joint working team to draft a multi-annual work plan for collaboration between our two organizations.

Mark Van Bocksteal, chair of the Working Group of Diamond Experts, represented the KP in the team. We have a session dedicated to this topic tomorrow. And I am pleased to inform you that Mr. Norbert Steilen from the Enforcement Directorate of the WCO will participate in this intersessional.

A paper detailing this initiative is circulating and I look forward to your comments.

I am also pleased to inform you that the first fruit of this renewed cooperation with the WCO has already been yielded, as the WCO has added the issue of illicit trade in rough diamonds to the list of only four subjects reported under the Customs Enforcement Network, CEN (the others being IPR, antimoney laundering, drug smuggling, cigarette smuggling).

This is primarily a step of a technical infrastructure nature; however, it is up to us now to utilize the opportunities it presents.

I hope that once we cement cooperation with the WCO, we can move forward and commence cooperation with other organizations.

The second initiative is an office for administration and support. Since my assumption of the role of chair, I have learned that the KP is lacking in administrative capabilities and suffers an abrupt severance every year at the transition of the role of chair from country to country. The absence of an organizational memory forces the incoming secretariat to build up its capacities from scratch.

Like Sisyphus, the KP chair pushes the rock up the hill only to be replaced just as he reaches the top and the incoming chair has to start the climb from the bottom  — though personally, I am more sympathetic with the Prometheus metaphor.

To deal with this lacuna, we would like to propose a creation of an Office for Administration and Support that will sustain the rotating position of chair and will facilitate a smooth "changing of the guards" each year, as well as serve as the institutional memory of the KP.

A paper detailing our interim thoughts on this organ is also circulating and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, as we are eager to advance this topic.

A Working Group on Trade Facilitation is our third initiative. As one of the world's leading diamond trade centers, Israel has first-hand experience with trade-related disputes that are a consequence of different interpretations of the KP procedures, while there is agreement that the diamonds in questions are not conflict diamonds.

As this results in substantive damages, we are suggesting to establish a Working group on Trade Facilitation, which will serve as a mediator in such cases of disagreement.

A paper detailing the terms of reference is also circulating and I look forward to your comments.

I wish to have an open dialogue with you all that will create consensus to pass these ideas at the Plenary meeting in November.

But not all of our work will be hard work. We will meet this evening at the pool for a cocktail reception. Sunset is at 19:51. I recommend you arrive a bit earlier to enjoy the picturesque Mediterranean scene that Israel can offer — a casual dress code is a must, as it outside the air-conditioned parameter.

May our discussions at this Intersessional be fruitful.

Thank you.

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Tags: Boaz Hirsch, Compliance, Conflict Diamonds, Israel, Kimberley Process, Namibia, NGO, Production, Zimbabwe
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