Dubai Diamond Exchange Chairman comments on fight against blood diamonds

Peter Meeus, Chairman, Dubai Diamond Exchange, thoughts on the diamond industry

I nearly fell off my chair when I recently read the motion for a resolution of the six federal government parties, with the bold theory that the fight against blood diamonds has failed. Now that the resolution has been approved, I am even more amazed.

As former director-general of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre I was very closely involved in setting up the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the supervisory body for diamonds recognized the world over. Its principles have actually been written in our offices in Antwerp.

It was not easy as the Belgian government felt that we did too little and the diamond sector in Antwerp was of the opinion all that was not necessary. But we have continued as it was a ‘good’ cause. We then worked very closely with Global Witness, the NGO most involved, to elaborate a fair and honest system.

In 2014, diamonds are the most strictly checked raw materials in the world. With the exception of uranium, no other raw materials are so strictly controlled and observed as rough diamonds. More than 99.8 percent of all diamonds produced is certified by the Kimberley-process. Problem countries such as the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Venezuela do not even represent 0.2 percent of the world production.

Already in April 2013 when the problems started in the Central African Republic, the Kimberley-process – of which I am part on behalf of the United Arab Emirates – has taken measures to ensure that the country could not export illegal diamonds any more. That way, the Kimberley-process was the first and only system to ensure, in a very short time, that rebels do not get the opportunity to finance their war with the sale of rough diamonds.

Human Rights

Can that be said of any other mineral, let alone any other diplomatic initiative?

Contrary to what is assumed and suggested in the resolution, diamonds are pioneers and should be considered as a model for other raw materials.

The media and politics are, however, systematically fed by messages falsely or politically inspired or not, about constant human rights violations in the exploitation of diamonds. Since de Hollywood film ‘Blood Diamond’ (2006), everyone seems to accept that unquestioningly.

What is it that the relationship of the diamond sector with the NGOs has deteriorated that much? It was excellent once. Why are the NGOs so dissatisfied with the achievements of the Kimberley-process and the diamond sector?

Certainly not because there would be more conflict diamonds than twelve years ago. So why are they? Maybe because the NGOs themselves have become small enterprises and the available funds have decreased, so the mutual competition has therefore increased? Did their need to boast originate there? Is it not possible that diamonds have become part of NGOs’ core business so that blood diamonds need to continue to exist?

Could we possibly consider the economic context for a moment? It is an open secret that the NGOs working in the field of minerals are especially subsidized by western powers. Has anyone ever made the connection with the declining economic importance of the major superpowers in Africa ? The fact that China has become the first economic power in the world with business transactions worth 3.82 billion dollars. That a kind of cold war is going on in Africa for the control of essential raw materials.

Even if that would not be the intention of the NGOs, it is perceived as such by all my colleagues in southern Africa, where I have been spending one third of my time for some years already. Add the fact that Russia, China, India, South-Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Congo and the United Arab Emirates have gradually grown tired of the situation that a small minority of member states continue to impertinent impose their agenda on the large majority in the decision-making process of the Kimberley process. In the name of human rights, but nobody believes that any more.

The resolution of the majority party already shows with which party Belgium sides in this debate. And this for a non-issue in a sector which already has a hard time to stand it’s ground and is discarded once again.

That human rights must be respected is beyond question. There are enough organisations that judge these issues in all objectivity. Authorities that do not depend on the financing by foreign governments that try to achieve an economic advantage and very successfully manipulate the media.

Isn’t it time to brush aside that ‘dirty business’-reputation? Who is 100 percent perfect? Is 99.8 percent not good enough? After all, there are hardly any conflict diamonds these days.