RAPAPORT… Peter Meeus, the chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange, which is part of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, lashed out at non-government organizations (NGOs) for over scrutinizing the diamond industry.
“There was a time when we enjoyed working together as an industry with the NGOs. They were fighting for a right and just cause, especially in Africa, so they had the support of Africans and it worked,” Meeus told the Angola diamond centenary conference on Friday. (Download the full speech.)
He noted, however, that while diamonds have emerged as the most controlled commodity in the world with less than 0.2 percent of total supply to the market being ”conflict diamonds,” the industry’s relations with the NGOs have degraded to a point well below zero.
“Why are they so dissatisfied with the accomplishments of the Kimberley Process and the diamond industry,” Meeus asked those at the conference.
He suggested that NGOs are competing for funds and their need to tell a story has therefore become greater than the cause, while they are fighting for their own relevance.
Meeus claimed the NGOs fabricated stories that do not have factual substance and gave examples of a torture camp in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields two years ago (that was published in a BBC documentary) and reports of daily killings in Angola’s Lunda province, as published in a recent report by German NGO BICC.
“These stories are then disseminated to news media around the world and are good for publicity and for raising funds but are blatantly untrue,” he said. “Can anyone give me any other reason why the NGOs do not exercise the same due diligence they ask from rough diamond buyers over their own story suppliers.”
Meeus stressed that the diamond community needs to draw a line and come to a new understanding of the Kimberley Process, whereby human rights need to be examined by instances that can rule above any reasonable doubt.
He called for third party verification by financially independent institutions that already have the structures and experience to judge cases of human rights abuses.
“If there are human rights violations they need to be judged by independent institutions that are really independent and are respected as such, and don’t cook-up stories for the sake of their own further existence,” Meeus said. “That is what we proposed last year to the then Kimberley Process chair — a message clearly not understood. So it’s time to repeat it. Let the Kimberley Process do what it did when we construed it. To be a certification scheme and not a human rights violation checker.”