A KP PERMANENT SECRETARIAT: BUREAUCRATIC PAPER PUSHER OR PRO-ACTIVE TOOL FOR CHANGE??

By: Ernie Blom, President, World Federation of Diamond Bourses

In a couple of days the Plenary of the Kimberley Process starts in New Delhi, India. The Indian KP Chair has the difficult task to unite some irreconcilable positions. One of the decisions put forward for approval relates to the establishment of a Permanent Secretariat.

While the Kimberley Process has been instrumental in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds, the initiative suffers indeed from structural weaknesses.

The work done by the members of the Working Groups, especially the Chairs, should be applauded. Without their continuous engagement, the KP would never have reached the international status which has allowed it to be put on the world map.

More than vital has been the work of the Administrative Support Mechanism (ASM), one of the tools for engagement and communication which was established in the last few years and for which we are, in the first place, grateful towards the World Diamond Council and the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in particular. One may even say that without the ASM, the KP could not continue to exist.

However, apart from technical issues, the KP has to deal with issues of higher importance and which even more clearly illustrate a structural deficiency in the organization.

One particular problem that demonstrates this is the process of rehabilitation for countries that had previously been found to be non-compliant.

For example, while the special teams that are established to follow up the process of rehabilitation do excellent work in developing the internal controls necessary for a Participant to once again become compliant, these are often voluntary groups with no prior institutional knowledge and therefore lack any consistency in the structures that they implement.

The KP faces this structural deficit, obviously because of a lack of means. The KP is in dire need of a well-structured permanent body taking over the work which today is done by volunteers, who spend their own free time and effort but on which whole countries’ populations depend.

Given the structural deficit of the Kimberley Process, and the increasing number of challenges this poses to the longevity of the initiative, certain changes should be enacted. To achieve a comprehensive vision for the Kimberley Process, the idea was mooted to establish a Permanent Kimberley Process Secretariat.

On the issue of funding, it is clear that the burden should be taken up by diamond-consuming rather than diamond-producing countries. The diamond markets are indeed mostly prevalent in Western countries, whereas conflict diamonds disproportionately affect the developing world. The consumer nations should carry the costs of the establishment and functioning of the Secretariat, not the producing nations, which often already have enough difficulties to face.

These broadly supported ideas have led to the approval of UN Resolution A/71/L.55 of 27 January 2017 stating that “such a secretariat could… serve as a sustained presence for maintaining contacts in countries of concern… and assist the Kimberley Process with regard to Participants who had been suspended and were resuming participation in the Kimberley Process, and notes in that regard that the plenary meeting looked forward to possible future ways to enhance cooperation with the United Nations system.”

Now almost 3 years later, the Ad Hoc Committee on Review and Reform (AHCRR) has been tasked with undertaking the development of a proposal on the creation of the Kimberley Process Secretariat (KPS) and reach out to KP Participants, Observers and international organizations to identify potential interest in hosting the KPS and establishing an appropriate process for identification and selection.

The general nature of the proposed KPS functions and activities is based on the functions of the current ASM. Potential functions of the KPS would be strictly administrative in nature and do not involve any policy inputs or decision making capabilities. The KPS would also be accountable to the KP Plenary, and will be obliged to provide an annual report of its activities.

The functions put forward are the following:

  1. Knowledge Management and Institutional Memory: mainly consisting of collection and maintenance of documents, decisions, minutes, reports, data and actions;
  2. Communications; mainly website maintenance, setting up teleconferences and preparing communications of the Chair;
  3. Administrative and Logistical Support for KP Chair, Chairs of Working Groups and Ad Hoc Committees: mainly preparing Intersessional, Plenary and Review Visits and Missions;
  4. Data website hosting and management: mainly related to statistics management;
  5. Technical and Professional Assistance: mainly the coordination thereof, not the providing itself;
  6. Possible administrative management of potential assistance fund upon its establishment.

I have no doubt that the Ad Hoc Committee on Review and Reform tasked with the establishment and practical organization of a Permanent Secretariat has the best intentions.

On the other hand, one cannot but conclude that the functions put forward are indeed only of an administrative nature.

It is further also clear that what was mentioned in UN Resolution A/71/L.55 of 27 January 2017 is not anymore in the tasks to be performed by the Permanent Secretariat. The idea that such a secretariat could potentially help to facilitate progress in countries of concern and especially in assisting the Kimberley Process with regard to Participants who had been suspended and who are resuming participation in the KP is nowhere to be found.

That is a pity.

We always thought that the first objective of the Kimberley Process was to eradicate the flow of conflict diamonds and to put forward all means possible to this end.

The structural issues related to the process of rehabilitation of countries that had previously been found to be non-compliant have currently not been addressed. Most of the reasons for the long process of normalization in these countries is related to poverty and the lack of human and technical capital and the many structural deficits of a country which has been in a conflict.

We had hoped that the Kimberley Process would have included some proper tools for a pro-active change into the Mission Statement of the Permanent Secretariat and not reduce its role to that of a bureaucratic paper-pusher. That would be a missed opportunity.

It is not too late and hopefully the Plenary will do what is needed.

The industry needs the KP but also needs a KP that is acting in its best interest.