Attempts to discuss Russia at the annual Kimberley Process (KP) plenary failed after the organization received differing views on whether the matter was under its remit.
The European Union (EU) and five national governments wrote to the KP chair ahead of the gathering asking for the Ukraine conflict to be on the agenda at the meeting, which took place in Botswana last week.
However, “[t]here were divergent opinions with regards to the relevance of the contents of the letters to the mandate of the KP,” according to the official communiqué the KP released Monday following the event. “As such, the issue was not brought forth for discussion within the plenary.”
In the weeks preceding the meeting, ministers from Australia, Canada, the UK, Ukraine and the US urged 2022 KP chair Jacob Thamage of Botswana to create a space for discussion of the Ukraine war’s implications. Some of the letters questioned whether Russia’s military actions were consistent with being an active KP member. The KP included the letters as an annex to the communiqué.
“If the Kimberley Process is to remain a credible guarantor that diamonds exported with a Kimberley Process certificate are actually conflict-free, it cannot refuse to consider the valid questions that have been raised about whether rough diamonds exported by Russia are financing its invasion of Ukraine,” wrote Cheryl Urban, director general for economic development at Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign office, on October 24. “It is unfortunate that a formal dialogue on this subject has yet to occur through the Kimberley Process despite the support expressed by many members to include this item on the agenda.”
The US, meanwhile, called for the KP to consider whether Russia should remain chair of two of its working groups.
“Even if the KP does not reach consensus on the question of whether there are conflict diamonds in Russia, we believe that neither Russia nor its supporters should hold positions of responsibility within the KP due to the ongoing aggression towards Ukraine,” wrote Whitney Baird, principal deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, in her undated letter.
The Ukraine argued that it was “immoral to leave the Russian Federation and Belarus [an ally of Russia] in the KP brotherhood.”
Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Venezuela and the Central African Republic (CAR) all wrote to oppose discussions of Russia, some of them claiming that the KP had become politicized.
The plenary, which ran from November 1 to 5 in Gaborone, Botswana, featured a speech by Michael Yoboue, coordinator of the KP Civil Society Coalition, who criticized the body for failing to reform.
“The KP does not allow discussions on how the world’s biggest diamond-producing country, Russia, uses diamond revenue to finance a cruel war against Ukraine, a fellow KP member,” Yoboue said.
A more neutral tone came from the World Diamond Council (WDC), whose president Edward Asscher said it had become apparent “that the KP is not…likely to play any constructive role in resolving the war in Ukraine.”
“Irrespective of what I or my colleagues may feel personally about the dreadful events in central Europe, a war between two sovereign states clearly falls outside the current mandate of the KP,” Asscher said in his opening speech to the plenary. Still, he added, “while we are neutral, we are not morally indifferent.”
Meanwhile, the KP will set up a permanent secretariat in Gaborone, with the operation beginning its work in January 2024, according to the communiqué.
Image: Delegates at the 2021 KP plenary, which took place as a hybrid event in Russia and online. (Kimberley Process)