CARACAS // The UAE has been handed a 24-carat challenge: how to get the disparate voices and conflicting interests of the international diamond business acting in unison for the good of an industry that is facing serious issues.
Last week, Ahmed bin Sulayem, best known as the force behind the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre – the DMCC, where the emirate’s diamond industry has flourished over the past decade – took the first steps towards meeting that challenge in crisis-torn Venezuela.
The 38-year-old DMCC chairman was the person chosen by the UAE Ministry of Economy to take up the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process (KP), which was set up in 2003 to stem the flow of “blood diamonds” on to the world’s markets. It has proved to be a controversial organisation.
Blood diamonds are by their nature sensitive: the images of savage butchery and exploitation made famous by the Hollywood film starring Leonardo DiCaprio linger in the public mind, clouding the glamour and glitter of “a girl’s best friend”.
In the KP organisation, diamond-producing countries and the big mining corporates sit with “civil society” – non-governmental organisations and human rights groups – that regard themselves as the conscience of the trade, and which allege KP has not done enough to crack down on the trade in illegal gems.
This has not always sat easily, and one of the biggest causes of friction has been Venezuela. Although it has not been classed as a “war zone” (part of the definition of blood diamonds), the country has been outside the KP since 2008, when it withdrew following allegations it was not adhering to the KP rules.
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