Amnesty: Time for diamond companies to stop hiding behind Kimberley ProcessPublished by MAC on 2015-11-17
Source: Statement (2015-11-17)
The Chains of Abuse report can be downloaded at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr19/2494/2015/en/
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Time for diamond companies to stop hiding behind Kimberley Process
Amnesty International Press Release
16 November 2015
Diamond companies must stop using the Kimberley Process to claim that their diamonds are free from human rights abuses and conflict, Amnesty International said as the certification scheme holds its annual plenary in Luanda, Angola.
The Kimberley Process was created with good intentions in 2003 to stop so-called “blood diamonds” that fund rebel groups from entering global markets. But a September 2015 Amnesty International report exposed systemic weaknesses in the scheme. Armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR), for example, are profiting from the country’s internal diamond trade, with diamonds from CAR finding their way into global markets despite a Kimberley Process export ban.
“The Kimberley Process was created to stop the international trade in blood diamonds, but it has not even achieved that limited goal. Meanwhile, the ethical problems facing the diamond sector have grown: our report exposed child labour, smuggling, exploitative working conditions and tax-evasion issues,” said Lucy Graham, Researcher in Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights team.
“Despite evidence exposing the clear need for change, the diamond industry reacted defensively to our report and ignored the issues we raised. They continue to hide behind the veneer of respectability offered by the Kimberley Process rather than taking responsibility for what happens along their supply chains.”
The United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s biggest diamond trading centres, is expected to take over the rotating chair of the Kimberley Process on 1 January 2016. Amnesty International’s report exposed loopholes in the UAE’s system for preventing the trade in blood diamonds while finding that Dubai's Tax Free Zone encourages diamond traders to make massive profits at the expense of developing countries.
“Governments like the UAE need to show leadership. This means new laws that ensure companies take responsibility for illegal acts and serious human rights abuses in their diamond supply chains,” said Lucy Graham.
NGOs Boycotting Kimberley Process Next Year
17 November 2015
The civil society coalition that traditionally participates in the Kimberley Process will sit out next year’s meetings in response to United Arab Emirates serving as 2016 chair.
The organizations said selecting the UAE as chair crossed a “red line,” citing continued concerns over “lenient standards” and transfer pricing in Dubai, as well as the country’s often-antagonistic relationship with NGOs.
“We have been calling on Dubai to change its harmful diamond trading practices,” said Alan Martin, Partnership Africa Canada’s director of research, in a statement. “If they want to be a leader in the Kimberley Process, they need to act like one.”
In a statement, the UAE pronounced itself “disappointed” with the decision.
“We remain committed to engaging with civil society, one of the three founding pillars of the Kimberley Process,” it said.
The boycott has been brewing since this summer, when the UAE was elected vice chair, the traditional stepping-stone to the top role, over NGO objections.
While Dubai and the KP NGOs have long had a stormy relationship, there have been some efforts at a rapprochement. At this summer’s meeting, Dubai presented an ambitious reform agenda, which many thought out of a character for a center often considered hostile to reform.
The civil society coalition statement said it “has tried to work with the UAE to address its 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.”
In response, the UAE called the NGO statements “baseless and factually flawed,” producing two emails from Dubai Diamond Exchange Peter Meeus to meet and discuss supply chain due diligence.
Martin responded: “The [first] emails were sent during the [June] Intersessional. We acknowledged receipt and said we would consider the UAE’s proposals. Since the Intersessional there has been only silence. The second email was an invitation to meet for a chat. There was no explicit request to enter in a dialogue about ‘cooperation’ or any specific project.”