The Ebola "aversion behavior" has clearly hit China. In an unprecedented move, the People's Republic of China, which, as 2014 KPCS Chair, hosts the forthcoming KP Plenary in China, has pleaded with a number of African countries to "understand our difficulty as the host of the meeting and actively consider not participating."
In an October 29, 2014, letter to a number of countries, the KPCS Chair's office wrote: "as the host, China is making its all efforts to make the preparation for more than 300 International representatives. Currently, Ebola virus disease outbreak is rampantly continuing in West Africa and has transmitted to the region other than Africa, causing great concern to the international community. Many representatives have expressed to us their concern that whether there will be delegates from your country and expect us to do the prevention and control work to ensure the health and safety of all representatives."
The letter continues: "As a good brother, a good friend and a good partner of Africa, China has been making great efforts to assist African countries in response to the disease, and in the first time has provided three patches of emergency supplies, remittance and food aids. Meanwhile, holding a successful, safe and fruitful meeting is also due diligent responsibilities of China as the Chair for 2014. China has the obligation to convey to your and your friends the concerns and worries of other representatives. We hope you could fully understand our difficulty as the host of the meeting and actively consider not participating.
"To ensure the participation of your country, China welcomes the delegates from your embassy in China to attend the meeting. We would send a formal invitation to the Embassy in that case. Meanwhile, we will arrange audio and video communications in the Plenary Meeting. You'll be invited to join in the meeting in video conference way. Please also arrange a technical access from your country," says the letter from the KPCS Chair's office.
China Violates KPCS Core Agreement
The founders of the KPCS specifically considered the possibility that, for a variety of reasons, there might be a situation in which a Chair doesn't want to invite a member country. For that reason, Annex IV - "Administrative Matters" contains the provision (in Article 3): "Meetings are to be held in the country where the Chair is located, unless a Participant or an international Organisation offers to host a meeting and this offer has been accepted. The host country should facilitate entry formalities for those attending such meetings."
China is not allowed to selectively decide which member countries receive a visa - and which do not. If China cannot welcome all KPCS delegates, then it would be more appropriate to schedule the KPCS Plenary elsewhere or to cancel it altogether.
What makes the situation so precarious and painful is the fact that the KPCS was founded especially to improve the plight of the diamond areas in the very same countries that they are now "dis-inviting." While great international efforts are made to reduce the Ebola-related aversion behavior [see cover story in DIB 834], which will have a more damaging economic impact than the epidemic itself, it is quite unhelpful for China's KPCS Chair to add to these fears.
KPCS Plenary May Be ‘Deadlocked'
In an early reaction to the letter, DIB has learned that several of the dis-invited African countries are considering sending a local embassy emissary with very simple instructions: on every proposal or resolution that is put up for a vote, you raise your hand and say "no." As the KPCS governance is based on consensus decisions, this will ensure that without the appropriate African representation, no decisions will be made at the upcoming Guangzhou, China, plenary.
There is still time for diplomacy, and it is assumed that the last word hasn't been said about this.