From June 21 to June 25, 2021, members of Kimberley Process will come together in a virtual environment for the 2021 KP Intersessional Meeting. One of the two regular KP gatherings conducted in any given calendar year, with the other being the Plenary Meeting that usually takes place in November, it was not held in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosting the Intersessional will be the Russian Federation, which originally was scheduled to assume the function of the KP Chair in 2020, but had its term pushed into 2021, again because of the extraordinary circumstances created by the coronavirus.

Ahead of the 2021 Intersessional Meeting, the WDC News Update spoke with the KP Chair, Alexey Moiseev, who also serves as Russia’s Deputy Minister of Finance. He previewed the upcoming gathering, provided an overview of key subjects on the KP’s agenda, and considered the impact of COVID-19 on the diamond industry and the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: With the onset of the COVID pandemic, the KP suspended many of its regular activities, delaying them to the start of the new year. How did the KP operate during 2020, and how have things changed in 2021?

KP CHAIR: As you are well aware, the KP took a consensus decision to postpone the chairmanship of the Russian Federation to 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis. In 2020, Chairs of the KP Working Bodies coordinated the work of the Kimberley Process within their respective competences, to ensure the implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), to the extent strictly necessary to ensure the continuity of the international rough diamond trade and to support the industry that faced an unprecedented downturn of business activity and closure of many consumer markets.

In line with the KP Rules and Procedures and due to the absence of the 2020 Plenary Meeting, the KP family adopted no policy-setting documents, nor it did issue a traditional Final Communique. At the same time, we managed to secure the continuity of the KP implementation in general and the support to the Process on the level of the United Nations General Assembly, which issued a respective resolution in March 2021, noting and welcoming the efforts of KP Participants to overcome the difficult times in the diamond industry in the wake of the pandemic.

The extraordinary restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many Participants to establish unprecedented measures to implement internal export and import controls and to issue the KP Certificates. In many ways, the widespread use of online platforms and digital ways of communication upheld the work of the KP in 2020-2021.

Now, as KP Chair, we have finalized all the procedures necessary to arrange the first ever virtual Intersessional Meeting due to the ongoing travel restrictions.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: For the first time in its history, the KP Intersessional meeting will be virtual. How will it operate?

KP CHAIR: Taking into account the consensus reached with the KP Vice Chair and Chairs of the KP Working Bodies, the Intersessional will be held via a well-established online platform. During the pandemic, we all got used to conducting virtual meetings and, therefore, as Chair, we do hope that this format will prove to be an efficient tool for the KP to continue its work despite the inability to meet in person.

We prepared the KP Intersessional Program based on requests of the Chairs of the KP Working Bodies and tried to structure it in a way that will be acceptable and convenient to the overwhelming majority of KP Participants and Observers.

It was quite difficult to transfer the established structure of the sessions of the Working Bodies to an online format in terms of the different time zones that we need to cover, but this is not new and was already tackled by other international organizations. At the same time, we do understand that the agreed arrangements are not 100 percent comfortable to all Participants, but here we will all have to take an extra step and show our joint commitment to make the Intersessional meetings a success.

We feel that there is an understanding of this from our colleagues and appreciate their support for the uneasy decisions we had to take as KP Chair to ensure that the KP continues to work and develop in this new normality.

Separately, we would like to thank the Administrative Support Mechanism and Ms. Elke Ceulemans personally for the support we are getting in terms of ensuring the smooth registration of participants to the virtual event and the creation of personal accounts for all delegates, in order to enable their participation in the planned sessions.

As per standard KP good practice we will also provide translations into all the KP official languages at the opening and closing sessions, and separate translations for the sessions of the Chairs of the KP Working Bodies and Special Forums dedicated to responsible diamond sourcing, as per requests submitted. As a result, all delegates can join the sessions from their workplaces or from their homes, using any means of communication, thus ensuring the needed flexibility and inclusivity of a virtual format of the meetings ahead.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: To what degree did COVID-19, both from a health and economic aspect, impact on the threat of conflict diamonds, and on the formalization of artisanal mining in Africa?

KP CHAIR: As I have already mentioned, many countries established unprecedented measures, to implement internal export and import controls and to ensure seamless issuance of KP Certificates.

As for the situation within the member countries, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak had an unprecedented impact on the lives of communities in many diamond mining regions of the world, regardless of the production methods used. Shutdowns of operations and the dramatic decline in the international rough diamond trade hit the mining communities the most, and especially those engaged in the artisanal small-scale production (ASM) sector.

Larger mining companies managed to show resilience and implement costly measures to ensure that their employees and the communities around them receive the needed health support and protection to overcome the pandemic. As we all understand, that was not always the case in the ASM sector in the most vulnerable regions of the world, consequently leading to the creation of additional risks to their stability and capacity to ensure the smooth implementation of the KPCS.

Nonetheless, we see that in most cases the local governments did manage to keep the situation under control, although from a socio-economic point of view it was a very challenging exercise, with the pandemic seriously impacting the livelihoods of many people.

Still, the efforts taken have enabled the countries to ensure that the situation in the vulnerable mining communities stopped short of new conflict crises, enabling the KPCS to be continuously implemented.

Here we also must talk about the need for international cooperation, including in the field of the vaccination roll out, as a key element in overcoming the dramatic impact of the pandemic and the rebound of economic activity. Russia is doing its part and we also see that the diamond industry representing all segments of the supply chain is also not sitting idle, and contributing as much as it can to support the efforts of governments in overcoming the pandemic.

To that I would add that the efforts to professionalize the daily work of the KP through the establishment of a Permanent Secretariat continue. If successful, it will contribute a lot to our capacity to help the further formalization of the ASM sector in the post-pandemic reality.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: Russia has championed the digitization of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. Where do things stand right now in this respect?

KP CHAIR: Well, actually, Russia has the needed infrastructure and legislation that enables us to implement it tomorrow, if such a decision is taken by the KP. But currently there is no global digital platform to exchange the information in the KP and the digital certificate itself is even a much harder story.

Therefore, it is always easier to enable the start of transformation on a bilateral level, between interested trading partners, as it is done in other trading mechanisms. With this in mind, Russia intends to use our digital customs platform as a way to move forward with the digital exchange of KP certificates information, and first reach agreements on a bilateral basis.

The Russian customs service exercises control and verifies the information on the KP Certificate with the data declared in the customs documents. They also have the necessary information exchange system.

Currently, we are discussing and finalizing draft agreements between Russia and other interested KP Participants. The most tricky part is the technical side of things, as different national legislations impose different requirements as to the security protocols and technologies that might be allowed to be used.

We do hope that we will settle all the technical details of digital exchange of information and will be able to present the outcomes of such pilot projects to the whole of the KP.

On top of that I can also add that the Working Group of Diamond Experts (WGDE) is playing an important role in steering the general discussions on the matter within the KP, with the aim of sharing best practices and bilateral experiences between the Participants. This helps a lot in bringing all the Participants along on this journey of making the KPCS a safer and easier system to implement for all, making the KP relevant in the future digital world.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: A new Operational Framework (OF) for the Central African Republic (CAR) was approved during the last KP Plenary in Delhi in 2019, according to which goods can be exported before they are reviewed by the monitoring team. In your opinion, has this new system met expectations, and how do you respond to suggestions that pressure should be put on the CAR government to improve the quality of the photographs being made available to the monitors before they are exported, or alternatively make sure the diamonds are not exported till the CAR Focal Point confirms they are of the right quality, so as to enable the diamond experts to accomplish their task?

KP CHAIR: We do hope that the dedicated KP working body – the CAR Monitoring Team (CAR MT) – will be assessing the effectiveness of the post-verification mechanism for approving diamond exports, but also the ability of the CAR government to implement the KPCS in the country, as well discussing proposals related to the CAR government extending the “green zones” in other areas of the country that are under government control.

This is the mandate of the CAR MT, which that it was tasked to do as an outcome of the 2019 Plenary.

Here in needed close collaboration with the other KP Working Bodies, representatives of the CAR government, the UN Panel of Experts and UN peacekeeping operations of MINUSCA.

We all understand the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on meeting the objectives set by the Plenary, but at the same time believe that the CAR MT has the potential to be more proactive in order to debate and propose to the KP options for resolving the situation in CAR.

The obligation of the KP Chair is to follow up on this work and make sure that KPCS is duly implemented and observed by all KP participants, including CAR in the compliant “green zones.”

We also agree that all KP Participants, including CAR, have to comply with decisions as stipulated in the KP documents, including the submitting of relevant information on diamond exports in a particular quality and format, so that it can be verified by the diamond experts. But I believe that it is up to the CAR MT and WGDE to assess this issue.

The KP Chair is always at their disposal to assist in this important aspect of the KP agenda.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: Russia has said that, despite the failure to do so in 2019, it will maintain on the KP’s agenda the issue of the broadening of the scope of the KPCS, through the revision the definition of conflict diamonds. Where do things stand in your opinion, and what are the alternatives for moving forward?

KP CHAIR: In line with paragraph 63 of the KP Communique (2019, New Delhi), provisions of UNGA resolution 74/268 and taking into account the efforts of consolidation of the KP Core Document and a review of a definition by the Ad Hoc Committee on Review and Reform that was completed in 2019, back in 2020 we submitted a proposal to continue the discussion on the definition during our Chairmanship, as a lot of progress has been made in previous years. It would have been not appropriate to lose the momentum, especially since Russia was one of a few Participants that strived to find a consensus on the matter in 2019.

Based on that, this year the Committee on Rules and Procedures, which is chaired by Russia, has taken a decision to formalize the establishment of a Sub-Team on the Core Document, to be led by the EU.

The aim of the Sub-Team, as per the adopted terms of reference, is to continue the discussions on the Core Document and the definition of conflict diamond that is imbedded in it.

As a member of this Sub-Team, the Russian Federation plans to continue positively contributing to the discussion and calls on all parties to work towards a consensus about updating the definition. We hope for a constructive dialogue within the Sub-Team.

We are in touch with our colleagues from the EU and do hope that we could make progress on this issue, and look forward to the proposals that will be put on the table by the Sub-Team coordinator.

WDC NEWS UPDATE: As Chair of the KP, what specific goals would you have liked to achieve by the end of 2021?

KP CHAIR: We do hope that the priorities which we put forward as Chair of the KP in 2021 will be positively looked at and supported by the KP Participants. The priorities incentivize the KP to concentrate on the substance of KPCS implementation on the one hand, and on the need to make sure that the KP itself stays relevant in the post-pandemic world, and shows its ability to change and develop together with global trends, where the end consumer of diamonds understands better the positive impact that the diamond industry can bring to the nations and people, contributing to the sustainable development of communities.

We do think it is of vital importance that, as the outcome of 2021 Plenary, the KP embarks on the journey of digitalization of KP certificates, supports the principles of responsible diamond sourcing as best practices for the diamond industry, and selects the location of the future Permanent Secretariat of the KP that will professionalize the implementation of the KPCS.

We also hope we will move forward with reaching a consensus on the definition of “conflict diamonds,” as this issue is long overdue.

We would also like to see tangible progress on the situation in CAR, with a clear aim to help the CAR government in strengthening its control procedures for diamond exports and stemming conflict diamonds from entering the global supply chain.

We would be happy to see the KP family expanding as a result of our work in 2021 and new Participants joining us, with the ambition to contribute to the further development of the global conflict-free rough diamond trade.

Clearly, the agenda is an ambitious one, but we are confident in the KP and in our colleagues who are dedicated to the success of the KPCS.

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