JCK Interview: Cecilia Gardner on the KP and Vigilance In the Diamond Trade

Opinion piece
10/04/2017 11:09

JCK's Rob Bates conducted an in-depth and personal interview with Cecilia Gardner, who recently stepped down after 18 years as president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to compliance with laws pertaining to the jewelry industry. She also served as general counsel to the World Diamond Council, an international association whose purpose is to end the trade in conflict diamonds; she was general counsel and director of the United States Kimberley Process Authority Institute; and served on the President’s Council and Executive Committee of CIBJO, a confederation of international jewelry trade associations. She addresses the Kimberley Process, responsible sourcing for jewelry and women in the industry. A few highlights:

"The World Diamond Council has for years taken a position that the expansion of the definition [of conflict diamonds] is necessary for the continued viability of the Kimberley Process. And now I’ll speak personally.  Without an expanded definition that includes violations of human rights and systematic violence against civilian populations in diamond producing and trading centers, I am not sure what the purpose of the Kimberley Process is. I guess I am informed by my experiences negotiating the Zimbabwe situation. There, we had an instance of violence funding perpetrations of violence against artisanal mining communities [in the Marange region]—being perpetrated by the military and the police—sponsored by the government itself. There were some people at the KP who said this should be none of our business. To me that was outrageous. If not the Kimberley Process, who? The KP was the only international institution doing anything about Marange. It was only the KP shining any light on what was happening in Marange. Hundreds of diamond diggers died there. If that is not a problem for the KP, I don’t know what is."

Asked how much good do she thinks the Kimberley Process has done, Gardner responds: "A lot. And I don’t think anyone is arguing otherwise ... It stopped the government from perpetrating violence in Marange, and they understood they couldn’t do that again because someone was watching. The Kimberley Process was watching. I don’t think you could argue that it didn’t [help to end conflict diamonds] ... it did have an effect and continues to have an important impact on the industry as a whole. It regularizes the trade. It is a form of monitoring of the trade. People know that someone is watching. And that isn’t bad. That’s a good thing. The development of minimum standards that are required to trade diamonds caused a lot of these countries to make their supply chains more transparent and more regularized. That, with the added layers of anti-money-laundering provisions, has made the diamond trade one of the most regularized trades in the world. I am a believer in the Kimberley Process. I do not want to see it end. What I’d love to see is it improve…. The Kimberley Process has fallen behind the times."