Ahmed Bin Sulayem Image Credit: Courtesy: Organisers

Dubai: The UAE is now the third largest exporter of diamonds, after India and the European Union, Abdullah Bin Ahmad Al Saleh, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Economy, told delegates at the Kimberley Process (KP) plenary on Monday.

In 2015 the UAE accounted for 15 per cent of the $84 billion (Dh308.3 billion) total world trade, he added in his opening remarks to the plenary at the Westin Hotel, Al Habtoor City, Dubai.

“The diamond trade is a key sector that contributes to the UAE’s position as a global gateway for trade,” he said.

In its year as chair of the Kimberley Process, the organisation was designed to curb the trade in conflict diamonds, the UAE had three key priorities, he said.

They were to ensure fair distribution of wealth generated by the diamond trade, to ensure greater transparency in diamond valuation and to make it easier for nations outside the KP to join or rejoin it.

KP Chair Ahmad Bin Sulayem, in his opening remarks, said that although the KP had been successful in curbing the trade in conflict diamonds, valuation and transparency were key if it were to have public trust.

“Anything that undermines the integrity, the perceived honesty of a Kimberley Process Certificate undermines the whole Kimberley Process and demeans us all,” he said, later adding, “Even though we may not have been set up to do it, the Kimberley Process has the power to enhance the standards and common ground and trust in the marketplace that it regulates.”

Dedication and commitment

Likening the KP to a teenager that had grown from small beginnings, but still lacked competence and experience, he renewed his call for a permanent UN secretariat.

“As an organisation, too many of our required skills cannot be delivered by the voluntary actions of a rotating chair,” he said. “We are not looking to do different things, but to do thing differently, better, more professionally. It is a testament to the extraordinary dedication and commitment of what is essentially a voluntary organisation that we have achieved so much. But now we need to create a skilled, lean, efficient, small permanent organisation with permanent skills and experience.”

He pledged $25,000 towards the formation of a dedicated fund for the KP’s Civil Societies, and called on the next chair — Australia will take over in 2017 — to do the same, and asked delegates at approve funding for the remaining $55,000.

“These are individual missions and committees, attended by individuals whose experience and perspective we need to hear and to nurture, uncomfortable as it sometimes may be,” he said. “So if we are to support them, we need also to make sure that Civil Society organisations are accountable to nobody but their own constituencies and the populations they care about.”

Bin Sulayem said the UAE had been accused of being pro-African, but that he was proud of that. “I was delighted that the chairmanship gave me a reason to travel to over 15 countries, many of which are in Africa,” he said. “I travelled to learn, not to preach.”