MARCH 18-20, 2002
The Ottawa KP meeting was ‘unplanned’, in the sense that the November 2001 Botswana meeting technically finalized agreement on the minimum standards for rough diamond controls that has been under discussion now for almost two years. The Ottawa meeting was required because there were too many loose ends after Botswana, and these required attention before there could be any real agreement.
NGOs presented a strong petition – signed by more than 70 NGOs – to the KP meeting on the four outstanding issues. They held a well-covered press conference on the 18th, and were extensively interviewed by the media after the meeting on the 20th. Also on the 18th, Ottawa-based NGOs organized a round of street theatre, popularizing the issue of conflict diamonds, with stops at the Angolan and Belgian Embassies, Canada Customs and the KP conference site. NGOs made many interventions in the working groups and the plenary, and played a significant part throughout the meeting. Those attending included World Vision, Partnership Africa Canada, Oxfam International, Global Witness, Amnesty International and ActionAid.
There were essentially four outstanding issues, and these are listed below, with the Ottawa outcomes, as seen from an NGO perspective:
WTO: there was a major debate about whether the KP system might be seen as trade-restrictive, thus incurring a potential WTO challenge. The US and others wanted it to be WTO-proof, which could have involved a number of additional steps or compromises before the system could be adopted. In Ottawa, the argument put forward most eloquently by the Swiss delegation prevailed: the proposed KP system is open to all countries; all the major producing and trading countries are at the table, including the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. The human and national security provisions in the GATT safeguard the KP system from challenge. Rather than weaken or delay our system in anticipation of problems, we should wait to see whether any actually emerge, and deal with them as and when they do. Although there were rumblings about further consideration by some delegations, this became the consensus, and the issue seems to have been satisfactorily resolved.
Statistics: Until July 2001, the idea that production and trade statistics should be gathered and/or made public was an anathema to some countries, notably Russia. The need for good international statistics was an NGO issue from the beginning, however. Although the debate since then has been long and often very technical, the agreement in Ottawa was significant. Essentially all countries will produce quarterly trade statistics and semi-annual production statistics, within two months of the reference period. Countries will use their own statistical arrangements, but will endeavour to ensure that these relate to the international harmonized system (HS) codes. Statistics will be collated centrally. It was agreed that an existing intergovernmental body with the capacity for this will be approached to handle the task (IMF and World Bank were mentioned). This is a significant step forward from where we were in Botswana, and a huge step forward from last July. The devil, of course, will be in the details. For example, will the statistics actually be harmonized? The value in finding an existing body to collate and analyze the data is that such a body will be at arms length from the political and commercial concerns expressed at all the meetings, and may well be able to bring consistency and objectivity to the exercise. A further reason for attempting to find such a body, is the continuing resistence to the creation of a secretariat.
Secretariat: It may seem perfectly logical that the KP system will need a secretariat to coordinate its many functions, but this logic is not clear to all participants. Many (including the US and Russia), have been skeptical if not hostile to any discussion about a secretariat until the system was fully agreed. The concerns relate to cost, bureaucracy, and the potential for such a body to gain discretionary power over and above the Plenary (in which all authority is currently vested). After Botswana, the EC chaired a working group on this issue, and presented a calculation to the Ottawa meeting of the person-days required in a year to provide the coordination services required by the KP system. The total was 214 days – about one person-year. The functions, however, are many, and require varying degrees of technical skill and judgement. The logic that flows from that analysis (if accepted), is that the secretariat functions could/should be distributed among various participants (essentially it would fall to whichever country volunteers and is willing to cover the cost), with the exception of the statistics matter, described above. The NGOs favoured a centrally-located secretariat, simply because the KP system is so complex and so detailed. By scattering it across the world, we run the risk of weakening key elements. There was skepticism about the 214 person-day calculation as well. We agreed, however, that this would not be a deal-breaker for us. After a year or so it will become more apparent whether the agreed approach or another make sense.
Monitoring: Here, we essentially failed. We have insisted from the beginning that independent, impartial, external, regular monitoring of all national control systems must be a part of the system. Without this, the system will have no credibility, and it will provide a wide range of loopholes in the system. We agreed that a country could reject a mission (because this is just a fact of life, and because if they did, it would make them look bad publicly). We said many times, in writing, that we were not seeking a place for NGOs on review missions, and that governments could appoint the actual members of a mission. This issue, however, sparked an enormous debate in the working group sessions, and it became an ugly debate twice during the plenary meeting, with NGOs on one side, and everyone else on the other. Several governments simply do not want, and reject outright, the idea of independent external monitoring. The most vociferous on this point have been Russia, Israel and China, but at the final plenary on this, we were attacked as well (there is no other word for it) by the Central African Republic, Angola, the DRC and the EC. The Swiss supported the idea, but said that now was not the time to discuss it.
Following the first plenary on the subject (March 19), we wrote the Chairman a letter (copy attached), outlining our unhappiness and saying that we would continue to push for regular external monitoring of all national systems. This became the subject of yet more heated debate, during which we agreed that we would not issue an NGO press release on the subject. We said, however, that we would continue to speak out on the matter, and hoped that as the KP evolved, this issue could be resolved to wider satisfaction than currently exists.
The current agreement on review missions says that they will be triggered when there are ‘credible indications of significant non-compliance’ with the KP system. They will be conducted with the consent of the country concerned. The size, composition, TORs and time-frame of missions will be ‘established by the Chair’, ‘in consultation with all Participants’.
Conclusion: Stepping back from the tension and the debates, NGOs can be very proud of what has been accomplished – with obvious caveats. Two years ago, the kind of agreement that now exists would have seemed inconceivable. Thirty seven governments and the diamond industry have made huge progress on a wide range of very contentious political issues, and a lot of very difficult technical issues. Many of them gave up key bargaining points, as did we. We do, in fact, have the basis of a workable and effective system. The operative word, however, is ‘basis’. For it to work in practice will require a great deal of good faith and hard work by all involved – industry, governments and NGOs.
Our role will change now. With the exception of the monitoring issue, for which a strategy will have to be developed, NGOs will have to change from a broad advocacy role, to a more nuanced one which ensures that adequate and appropriate national systems are developed before the official launch of the entire scheme in November. It was agreed that the 6 NGOs present at the Ottawa meeting will draft a joint paper outlining the challenges they see and time frame ahead, and that this will then be circulated more broadly for additional comment and input.
Partnership Africa Canada
NGO Letter to the Chairman of the Kimberley Process
March 20, 2002
Mr Abbey Chikane,
Dear Mr. Chikane,
The Kimberley Process discussions in Ottawa have made great progress towards solving some of the difficult issues that remained before us and we can now look forward to the launch of the overall certification system for rough diamonds.
One important Issue remains, however, and we do not want our position to be misunderstood. In his opening remarks to the Conference, David Pratt said that the scheme would require ‘adequate arrangements for verifying compliance’. We said during the concluding debate on this subject, that if we were asked whether this had been achieved, some of us would have to say ‘no’.
The now-agreed review system for national control mechanisms is purely voluntary. Consensus in a plenary meeting of the Kimberley process, to decide whether there are ‘credible indications of significant non compliance’ will be needed in order to trigger a review mission. Yet any country can join the system by notifying the chair, without a review of their control systems. This is completely inadequate. UN Security Council Expert Panels, the media and our own studies have shown that elements of the diamond industry and many countries have inadequate controls on conflict diamonds. Without a system of impartial, expert and periodic reviews of all countries, the Kimberley Process runs the danger of remaining a paper exercise. The NGO petitions presented at the Twickenham meeting in September and at this meeting, our written submissions to the Kimberley process and our interventions at every meeting for almost two years have made this point. It has been clearly and categorically rejected, however, by virtually every government that has spoken on the point. We will continue to make our position clear, however, in the Kimberley Process and elsewhere.
We do not want this to be understood as a breach of faith with the process, or as a critique of other important achievements. We look forward to working with you and others in the Kimberley process to make what has been agreed a success.
Partnership Africa Canada