SA’s Minister of Mineral Resources Addresses KP Intercessional

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RAPAPORT… The following is the full text South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu’s address at the Kimberley Process Intercessional meeting:

Premier of the Northern Cape provincial government, honorable ministers,
honorable deputy ministers, excellency KP chair Welile Nhlapo, delegations from participant governments, observers from the Association of African Diamond Countries, World Diamond Council, KP civil society coalition, Diamond Development Initiative; chairs and board members of various state entities, members of the media and members of the diplomatic core, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is with greatest pleasure and excitement that I’ve been mandated on behalf of the citizens of the Republic of South Africa to host the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for the second time in this country and I therefore, would like to once again welcome you all to this historic town of Kimberley a place where the first kimberlite pipes were discovered at the turn of the 18th century and also marks the greatest monument of the inaugural meeting of the KP.

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 near the Vaal River, some 550 miles northeast of Cape Town, changed South African history. The discovery triggered a “diamond rush” that attracted people from all over the world and turned Kimberley into a town of 50,000 people within five years. At first, diamond mining took place in the form of independent claims in four areas surrounding Kimberley, but as the mines went deeper, they became more difficult to work, and a number of businessmen managed to consolidate them into larger mines.

Ladies and gentlemen, my government extends its congratulations to the People’s Republic of China for being elected as the vice chair in 2013 and subsequently chair in 2014, and hereby commit to provide the incumbent with the necessary support and assistance if and when required.

Let me remind you all of the year 2000, and how the Kimberley Process was started at a place, not far away from where we are, today where government representatives, diamond industry, civil society coalition, men and women of sobriety and goodwill, converged in the church in this town known as the Tabernacle. At that stage the future of the diamond industry was experiencing serious difficulties, as the raging worldwide chorus for the boycott of diamonds was gaining momentum, of which its consequences could have led to a catastrophe of unknown proportion.

The road we traveled was torturous and difficult and at times hopes were fading in search of solutions to avert the imminent disaster. We all remained indefectible in our hope to reach our destination to redeem this rare and valuable commodity from being used as an instrument of maiming of innocent people, undermining legitimate governments and the overthrow of sovereign states to be a source of growth and economic development particularly at the areas where diamonds are mined. Ultimately, a voice of reason prevailed and indeed 10 years later, we reconvene in Kimberley to remind ourselves of the memories precisely to count our successes as the KP family such as the curbing of the flow of conflict diamonds, which was a cause of concern for some legitimate governments and the continuous growth of KP participants who voluntarily wants to be abide by its norms and standards.

We are particularly elated that we are all here to celebrate the achievement that more than 99 percent of diamonds traded globally are conflict free and this has restored consumers’ confidence in this commodity.

It is my country’s expectation that the KPCS must consolidate and accelerate its winning formula to further shrink the less than 1 percent of unaccounted diamonds in the global trade and to obliterate the potential contamination of the legitimate trade of this sparkling stone.

We therefore gathered here to salute our heroes and heroines who stood fast and firm, daring that our beloved diamonds commodity is used for the development and benefit of all humankind from all walks of life. It is incumbent upon all of us to jealously guard our gains made thus far.

We therefore, have to unite as the KP family to ensure that diamonds are never again used as a source to undermine legitimate governments and the staging of coup d’états.

We as South Africans are particularly blessed and honored that our government had commissioned the very same logo which has turned out to be the universal embodiment of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Yes, it is indeed 10 years of the existence of this gallant organization and it is a common knowledge that any institution of note must always do self introspection to determine its needs and relevancy in order to face future challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment has finally arrived for the KP to sharpen its efficacies. It is against this background that KP is conducting a review of its processes and functions. It is for this reason that my government is fully behind the KP proposed reform initiatives.

It is our view that the mandate on which KP was established, is protected and maintained, with a view of complementing other multinational organs such as United Nations and the African Union which both have the necessary mandates and capacity to deal with complex issues of human rights violations and armed conflicts.

We are pleased to note that there is common understanding on the merging of certain structures within the KP geared to enhance the effectiveness of our organization. We need to encourage maximum participation of members in all structures and give them opportunities to make an impact, which in return will build their own capacities.

We have to take cognizance that KP participants represent various constituencies, which have different needs and expectations which makes it imperative for them to participate in all KP activities. In the same breath each and every participant must adhere to the KP prescripts in order to ensure vibrancy of our esteemed organization and shy away from castigating those participants who are crying out for assistance, what it commonly referred to in this part of the world as UBUNTU.

Our main objective as a collective is to encourage and drive the increase in membership figures for the KPCS rather than institute punitive measures where a different approach could achieve similar outcomes. And further assist those who need time to put their houses in order and subsequently be permitted to trade their diamonds once it is established that they are fully compliant with the KP minimum requirements.

However, we need to remain vigilante not to allow any illicit diamonds from the affected participants from contaminating the legitimate diamond value chain. Hence, our response to the prevailing situation in the Central African Republic, which serves as a valuable lesson and reminder of the primary objectives, which led to the establishment of the KP is not completely dissipated and confirms the need to strengthen it.

We also need to acknowledge that KP was founded on goodwill where decisions are made to accommodate various views aimed at reaching common understandings meant to ensure a win-win situation. We should give special tribute to the architectures of this organization who did not only foresee situations where there would be divergent views of issues of common interest but also devised means of resolving same.

We like to call on the KP participants to ensure that in discharging the organization tasks they always ensure that they respect each other and the sovereignty of participating governments. It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to be mindful that KP reform initiatives do not lead to a situation that is tantamount to a license to undermine the sovereignty of states, which KP was established to protect. We must always be mindful that we are operating in a multilateral environment and caution must always be exercised.

We have galvanized the success made within this industry by identifying diamonds as one of the important minerals wherein beneficiation is used to develop and improve the livelihood of our people. It is in that context that South Africa will be hosting the jewelry summit later this year to engage various industry stakeholders to gauge and evaluate measures to be taken to enhance the competitiveness of our industry within a global arena and to chart a way-forward.

We hereby call upon all KP participants to respect and implement the decisions endorsed by the plenary for the benefit of all. In this regard we are appealing to the KP family to develop the implementation plan of the Washington declaration, in a manner that takes into account the dynamics of various regions and in consultation with relevant structures such as the African Union and Association of Diamond Producing Countries (ADPA).

We commend the United Nations for renewing the exemption from sanctions in Cote d’Ivoire for securing of samples of rough diamonds for scientific research purposes co-ordinated by the Kimberley Process. This will pave the way to continue with the fingerprinting project aimed at determining the origin of diamonds as part of curbing the flow of illicit diamonds. Ladies and gentlemen, we must ensure that we use experts from KP participants (which includes the diamond industry and observers) to ensure that confidentiality of KP information is not compromised.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this regard my government fully supports the Plenary’s encouragement of the working group on monitoring to continue discussions on this issue, including the possibility of establishing a sub-group on information sharing to support KPCS implementation, with the notion that this would have no bearing on domestic legislation or the sovereignty of countries.

The KP’s growth should be illustrated not only by our reforms and policies but also by the positive impact we make in the global diamond industry as we strive to expand our family and continue to build on the relations we have now. I therefore congratulate countries and institutions which have shown interest in joining this organization and it must remain our duty to convince prospective participants more especially the diamond producing countries to join the KP family in droves.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is our duty to portray the KP in a positive light, by informing our respective constituencies about its good deeds. Our efforts to curb the illicit trade in rough diamonds would not amount to much if we fail to inform and educate our people about this noble organization and the impact it has on the global diamond trade.

As the chair, we have taken the opportunity to embark on a media campaign geared towards empowering our citizens by enlightening them on the KP and the role they can play towards its success. At the same time we must always strive to ensure that our points of entry such as customs organizations and institutions at our respective countries are fully abreast with the KP statutes and activities as part of the implementation of the KP measures to curb the flow of illicit diamonds.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must also strive at all times to protect KP symbols and remind ourselves of the reason why its logo was commissioned and crafted. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that its logo was designed distinctively to uniquely identify KP from any other organization. We must therefore guard jealously any attempt to use same for any other purpose.

With these few words, the chair of the KP, fellow participants, observers and distinguished guests, I wish you all a fruitful and productive interaction aimed at building and strengthening our organization for it to face new challenges with renewed energies and strategies.

I thank you.

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