General Assembly Speakers Praise Kimberly Process for Significantly Reducing Scope of Conflict Diamond Trade, Say Initiative ‘Too Important to Fail’



Sixty-sixth General Assembly
87th (Resumed) & 90th Meetings (AM & PM)

Express Concern at Boycott of 2011 Meeting by NGO Global Witness; Also Elects 25 Judges to Mechanism for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia Tribunals

Hailing the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as “too important to fail”, delegates in the General Assembly today praised the Process for having significantly reduced the scope of the conflict diamond trade, while expressing concern that a major civil society partner had pulled out of the United Nations-backed diamond industry initiative in 2011 to demonstrate lack of confidence.

During the Assembly’s annual meeting held to assess the status of the Kimberley Process — a voluntary alliance of representatives from the diamond industry, civil society, and diamond-producing and trading countries set up in 2003 to help cut off the global trade in so-called “blood diamonds” — a representative of the Delegation of the European Unionwelcomed the enhanced cooperation on implementation of the process in 2011 as a “significant step forward” that would foster greater collaboration between national enforcement agencies and international bodies, such as the World Customs Organization. The number of fake certificates detected, the illegal shipments blocked and the arrests carried out were testimony that it “makes a difference on the ground”.

Yet, he stressed that civil society participation was “key element” in the Kimberley Process and had contributed much to its initial establishment and subsequent operation. As such, the European Union regretted the recent decision by Global Witness, the Nobel Prize-winning non-governmental organization working to break the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict, to pull out of a plenary meeting of the Process’ participants in Kinshasa, and called on all participants to work together and enhance the Kimberley Process’ credibility.

He noted that the Kinshasa Decision on a framework for the resumption of diamond exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange mining region, adopted by the recent meeting held in the Congolese capital, had “fully recognized and reflected the role of civil society”. The European Union was encouraged that many civil society groups had pledged to remain engaged and called on all participants to support the Decision and urged Zimbabwe to continue work constructively within the Process.

Canada’s representative said the civil society coalition had boycotted the Kinshasa meeting to indicate its lack of confidence in the initiative’s work. That was troubling because non-governmental organizations played an important role in building consumer confidence in the diamond supply chain and upholding the credibility in the Kimberly Process as a whole. “The Process is at a critical juncture,” he said, adding that the debate on Zimbabwe had proven the “fundamental inability of the Kimberley Process to address non-compliance in a timely and effective manner.” While noting that a consensus decision on the matter had been reached in Kinshasa, he said that, if it was to remain relevant, the process must adapt to new realties and challenges.

Also taking the floor, the representative of the Russian Federation declared support for the decision on exports of Marange diamonds and urged establishment of strengthened internal controls in producer countries, and cutting centres and of improved transparency of statistics. He believed that effective implementation required further development of the Process’s legal basis, and also called the development of a proper normative basis for it. He welcomed Swaziland’s participation in the Process and expressed support for increased involvement for those not yet involved in the Process.

The representative of Israel said great strides had been made in tackling the danger of conflict diamonds. They now made up less than 1 per cent of the global market, a sharp decline from 15 per cent in the 1990s. He said the Kimberley Process showed the power of global commitment backed by collective action, adding that Israel had assumed leadership on the issue because of its status as the world’s third largest diamond trading centre. He looked ahead to significant work for the Process, calling for efforts to strengthen its civil society partnerships, stressing the importance of broad participation, and expressing support for reforms, particularly the formation of a new Secretariat.

At the opening of today’s meeting, Yamba Lapfa Lambang Mathieu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in his capacity as the 2011 President of the Kimberly Process, introduced the 2011 report of the initiative’s work for the year, saying that “major progress” in preventing diamond-related conflicts had been made due to the process’ Certification Scheme. Many countries that had been facing such conflict at the time of the Scheme’s implementation were now stable, he added.

Particular attention during the reporting period was paid to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. That Government had presented its situation at the Scheme’s Kinshasa meeting. The Process had also worked closely with the United Nations Group of Experts and the Security Council Sanctions Committee to prevent the flow of Ivoirian diamonds across the country’s borders. He said the report noted that Swaziland had joined the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, while Mali, Mozambique, Cameroon, Panama, Burkina Faso and Kazakhstan had expressed interest in joining.

In addition, he continued, 45 members had submitted their annual statistical reports. Lesotho, Botswana and Ukraine had received peer review visits and subsequent reports were drafted. A technical expert team on the internet sale of diamonds had been created and the Process’ statistical website was improved. Venezuela had also complied with the recommendations issued to it by the plenary of the Kinshasa meeting, and the country was entitled to rejoin the scheme following its withdrawal.

He also highlighted some challenges that the Kimberly Process had faced in 2011, including those related to diamonds from the Marange region of Zimbabwe. However, solutions had been found to many of those issues, and the resumption of the trade of Marange diamonds was approved. He told the Assembly that the United States would assume the Presidency of the Kimberly Process for 2012, with the assistance of South Africa as Vice-President. He added finally that his delegation had not yet submitted the Assembly’s traditional draft resolution on the matter of diamonds in conflict, as consultations were still under way.

In other business today, the Assembly elected 25 judges to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in a single round of secret ballot voting. The Mechanism was established by Security Council resolution 1966 (2010) to finish the work begun by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Taking the floor prior to the vote, the representative of Fiji recalled that, last week, a procedural rule had led to two inconclusive votes for the 25 seats. He said there was broad agreement on the need to avoid the same situation in the third round of voting and proposed that, if the same situation arose today as had arisen on Friday, there would be no second ballot, but rather the 25 candidates with the highest number of votes would be elected. (See Press Release GA/11197)

In the event of a tie for a remaining seat, a restricted ballot would be held, he suggested, adding that this was a particularly relevant proposal given that the low number of candidates made repetition of the situation likely. The representative of Japan seconded the proposal by the representative of Fiji.

The Assembly then decided to approve the change to the voting process.

Also prior to the vote, the President of the Assembly announced that three candidates — Carlos Sanchez Escobar (El Salvador), Juan Antonio Duran Ramirez (El Salvador) and Michèle Picard (France) had withdrawn their candidature.

Having obtained the absolute majority the 25 candidates elected to the Residual Mechanism were Liu Daqun (China), Gberdao Gustave Kam (Burkina Faso), Aydin Sefa Akay (Turkey), Carmel A. Agius ( Malta), Patrick Lipton Robinson ( Jamaica), Lee G. Muthoga (Kenya), Mparany Mamy Richard Rajohnson (Madagascar), Seon Ki Park (Republic of Korea), Burton Hall (Bahamas), Florence Arrey (Cameroon), Solomy Balungi Bossa (Uganda), Christoph Flügge (Germany), Bakone Justice Moloto (South Africa), Ivo Nelson de Caires Batista Rosa (Portugal), Theodor Meron (United States), Vagn Prüsse Joensen (Denmark), Alphons Orie (Netherlands), José Ricardo de Prada Solaesa (Spain), Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom), Prisca Matimbe Nyambe (Zambia), Graciela Susana Gatti Santana (Uruguay), Jean-Claude Antonetti (France), Joseph E. Chiondo Masanche (United Republic of Tanzania), William Hussein Sekule (United Republic of Tanzania) and Aminatta Lois Runeni N’gum (Zimbabwe/Gambia).

The Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 22 December, to take up the reports of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial).