Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri and Ahmad Bin Sulayem Image Credit: Gulf News

DUBAI: As the UAE’s first meeting as host of the Kimberley Process (KP) went ahead without representatives from the KP’s Civil Society Coalition (CSC), KP Chair Ahmad Bin Sulayem had this to say to the group’s spokesman: “Get back to work.”

Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), said he “strongly refuted and rejected” allegations from the CSC, made up of 11 rights groups, about the UAE’s suitability to chair KP. It is the first Arab nation to chair the group, which aims to regulate the international diamond industry to keep so-called “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds” off the market.

In his opening comments to the KP Intersessional 2016, at Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah, he said the UAE had agreed to all conditions set by the World Diamond Council, acting as moderators between the CSC and the UAE, but that had not satisfied “self-appointed leader” of the CSC, Alan Martin.

“Mr Martin’s claimed that he is fully operational in his KP duties despite his absence here today,” Bin Sulayem said. “To me, an empty chair is not fully operational.”

He added, “I urge Mr Martin in the strongest possible terms to get back to work.”

He outlined promising negotiations with Venezuela and the Central African Republic to rejoin the KP group, noting that Venezuela, which left the organisation in 2008, had been unable to export any of its stock of diamonds. He noted KP chairs had tried unsuccessfully to bring Venezuela back into the group, but he hoped that it could be achieved with the year of the UAE’s chair.

“I see two key tasks before us; addressing the true challenges of today to strengthen the KP and to set a path ensuring the Kimberley Process will meet the challenges of the future,” Bin Sulayem said. “We have a responsibility to the entire diamond supply chain and its stakeholders to approach the most challenging questions and through consensus, power forward important, much needed change.”

Earlier, UAE Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri outlined the importance of the diamond trade to the UAE.

“Dubai and DMCC are vital centres in the UAE’s trade economy with commodities such as gold and diamonds featuring at the top of our list of contributors to GDP,” he said. “And this is one of the principle reasons why the trade in diamonds, and our chairmanship of the Kimberley Process, are so important to us as a nation.”

He added: “Last year, even though prices of diamonds faced challenging market conditions, The UAE imported $12.4 billion worth of rough diamonds and re-exported $13.2 billion worth, giving the UAE rough diamond trade a total value of $25.6 billion in 2015,” he said.

 

Valuation issues

Kimberley Process chair Ahmed Bin Sulayem said the valuation of rough-shaped diamonds remained a concern for the group, but it was beginning to work with industry leaders and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to resolve it.

“Rough diamond valuation is a challenge that is not limited to one country, one diamond centre, or the Kimberley Process — it is a critical challenge for the entire diamond industry,” he said. “In particular, it is a top priority for the diamond exporting countries in Africa, which are looking to get the best value from their mineral resource wealth.”

A diamond expert at the conference, currently preparing her PHD thesis on the diamond trade, explained there were two main problems for valuations: ensuring a fair price for small-scale, artisan diamond miners, and standardising the valuation process.

The expert, who declined to be named, said De Beers alone had 17,000 grades for diamonds, and each miner and dealer had its own methods.

A standard valuation process would help ensure the provenance of a diamond, she said, boosting the Kimberley Process’s efforts to keep blood diamonds off the market, but protocols for dealing with rough-shaped diamonds would be even harder.

She said the number of cut diamonds produced from a rough-shaped stone could depend on the skill of the cutter, and an error in cutting could destroy a high-tension stone, both of which made it difficult to track a cut stone’s provenance.