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Thank you Hilde [Hardeman, Head of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, European Commission]. I would like to start by thanking you and all the other colleagues that have been working to make this possible; I know it is a lot of hard work, a lot of patience, a lot of negotiations, a lot of preparation, so thank you for that. And thank you all for the energy and the dedication that you are putting in this process and in this work.
A few months before the European Union took up the Presidency of the Kimberley Process, a teenage miner and a pastor in Sierra Leone found the 15th largest diamond ever unearthed in the world. And they took a simple but quite revolutionary decision. They decided to sell it through official channels to support their entire community.
The pastor decided to call it “the peace diamond.” And he explained to journalists: “Our diamonds aren’t for war anymore. They are for development. When the government uses the money from the diamond to develop our village, the whole world will see that, indeed, diamonds can make the world a better place.”
Since then, a new well has been dug in the village, and the construction of a school and a hospital has begun. The government has committed to investing a share of the diamond's value inside that local community. And as the pastor said, the world is now looking at this small village in Sierra Leone as an example.
This is the path to follow. This is the idea behind the Kimberley Process and the aspiration that has brought us together here in Brussels.
Diamonds and natural resources should benefit the community, not smugglers or militia. The Kimberley Process is about rules and standards, but it also about changing the culture and the attitudes surrounding the diamond trade.
Small miners and local communities must see that a regular and transparent trade of diamonds brings peace and jobs to their land. And customers from all around the world have the right to know that they are not buying “blood diamonds”, and that they are not financing warlords.
The logic behind the Kimberley Process is one of shared interests. We all want to end the era of “conflict diamonds”. It is in the national interest of all affected countries, and of our collective security. It is in the interest of industry. And it is first and foremost in the interest of local communities.
In this year as the EU Chair, we have worked to further reinforce cooperation among governments, the diamond industry and civil society organisations. And let me thank the World Diamond Council and the Civil Society Coalition for your contribution, and for pushing us collectively towards higher standards and greater ambition.
We have come a long way since fifteen years ago, when the Kimberley Process saw the day. The trafficking of conflict diamonds has dropped. Natural resources that finance the war economy have become an integral part of the peace economy.
We all know that the path towards peace is always a long and difficult one, and it may take years to heal the wounds of civil war. Precisely for this reason, we must make sure that natural resources contribute to sustainable peace and sustainable development, instead of paying for weapons and death.
This year, we have placed special emphasis on local communities and how diamonds can lift them out of poverty. Together we have organised the first Forum of Artisanal Diamond Mining, so that artisanal miners themselves could take a seat at the table and contribute to the conversation about their own future.
Everyone in this room understands that issues like this can only be tackled in partnership, in cooperation: Partnerships between governments and local communities, between the private sector and the civil society. And also, crucially, partnerships among countries, new forms of regional and international cooperation to achieve our common goals.
This has been the main focus of the European Union throughout our chairmanship of the Kimberley process, because I know that these kind of multilateral processes are probably the most difficult thing to handle. You need endless negotiations, endless talks at night and early mornings, endless work on every single comma you agree or disagree upon, but we know as Europeans out of our own experience that cooperation across borders – cooperation among countries – is the only way forward to solve problems and solve conflicts in particular.
Our Union, the European Union, was founded on the idea to replace confrontation among European countries with cooperation. Why? Simply because we have lived so many thousands of years of conflicts that we know that conflict and competition is always less convenient than cooperation among our countries. Even if it is very difficult to find a common ground, it is always better than having a conflict. We have always believed that when we join forces across borders, when you find common ground, we are all better off – even if it takes some courage to compromise.
We can help one another to raise our national standards and be more effective in our work to spread the wealth created by diamonds to our societies. Cooperation among neighbours is crucial to effectively fight the conflict minerals' trade. This year, we Europeans have worked in partnership with the Manu River Union in West Africa and with the new Central African Cooperation – supporting them in their collective work against diamond smuggling.
We always say that African challenges need African solutions. It is a pleasure to see this happening in practice, and I am proud that we Europeans are doing our part to support regional solutions to regional challenges and African solutions to African challenges.
We must continue to work together. We must continue to work together to reform the Kimberley Process, to make it deliver, to make sure that diamonds do not finance war, or human rights abuses, but are a source of sustainable growth.
We Europeans have worked for this all through our chairmanship – with our proposals, but most importantly, in a spirit of partnership and cooperation that continues in these hours. I am sure that India will continue to work in the same spirit, as they take on the chairmanship for the coming year. So we pass the chairmanship here in Belgium that is not only the headquarters of the European Union, but a country that owes a lot to the diamond industry in Antwerp.
We all gathered here because we believe that diamonds should make all our countries stronger and wealthier, instead of financing wars. We believe that natural resources should serve local communities, not private armies and criminal groups.
Last month, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminded us that “since 1990, 75 per cent of civil wars in Africa have been partially funded by revenues from natural resources.” Together we can change this, and I believe we are working effectively to change this. The Kimberley process has shown the way in many respects in this field. This year we have taken some important steps in this direction, and we did it only because we managed to do it together.
From blood diamonds, to peace diamonds. So that natural resources are no more a driver of conflict, but finally a common good.
I thank you for your attention and wish you a very good continuation and, hopefully, a very successful conclusion of these days of work. Thank you.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I163341