World Diamond Council Meeting Focuses on KP Reform & Sustainable Development

24/10/2018 09:54

The World Diamond Council (WDC) kicked off its 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Mumbai on October 22, with its focus being on reform of the Kimberley Process and WDC System of Warranties in support of a commitment to sustainable development by the diamond industry. The meeting is hosted by The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), and this year’s event welcomed several new member organizations that strengthen the collective voice of the Council, particularly in Belgium, China and Africa. The agenda will continue to focus on a push for reform, both externally in the Kimberley Process (KP) where the WDC serves as the industry’s observer, and from within through changes to the industry’s System of Warranties (SoW).

WDC President Stephane Fischler opened the AGM by voicing his concerns about the degrading of the ethical climate of the global diamond industry, with issues ranging from the failure to honor the dates of ordinary transactions to defrauding banks, and undisclosed mixing of synthetics into the natural diamond pipeline. "I believe it is time to pause and think about the current environment we all operate in, together," he said. Fischler reflected on the time when he first entered the industry, where one's word meant something, knowledge and expertise were respected and the diamond bourses exercised ethical and commercial authority. "Fast forward to today. Diamonds have been commoditized. Your expertise must be confirmed by independent experts [and] bourses are challenged to exercise their authority on their members ... If that was not enough," he said, "our collective reputation ...  has become a question and requires independent auditing." 

He spoke briefly about the 90's, when participants in African conflicts were a stain on the industry, while companies turned a blind eye. "Fast forward again, the Kimberley Process is still the heir of our collective failures, but also of the industry courage and determination to correct its wrongs. Wrongs to an entire generation of Africans who still carry the scars. We must resist the errors of the past when looking to regenerate trust in our industry. Rather than look the other way, confront the issues." Fischler advocates precisely that. "That is why," he says, "the WDC Board of Directors has mandated us to engage in widening the scope of the definition of conflict diamonds. That is why the industry supports the Diamond Development Initiative, which seeks to address the mode of production and the socio-economic context of the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining sector in Kimberley Process’ approved zones."

The WDC encourages KPCS reform focused in the areas of:

  • Broadening the scope of the KP to increase the likelihood of safe and secure working conditions, fair labor practices and sustainable development in diamond communities.
  • Establishing a permanent secretariat to strengthen long-term implementation of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.
  • Strengthening the KPCS minimum standards by strengthening the peer review mechanism.

Following WDC President Fischler, GJEPC Chairman Pramod Agrawal said the industry should reform the way it does business and that much of the reform had to come from self-regulation. He said that no amount of external regulations could bring about meaningful change without change from within. Saying the GJEPC was behind the push to change, Agrawal was optimistic that a permanent UN Secretariat for the KP would be possible by next year, when India took over as Chair. On the issue of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines on the nomenclature for diamonds, Agrawal said the GJEPC held the view that there ought to be separate names for natural and lab-grown diamonds. He said this would eliminate confusion in the minds of consumers. He added that the industry should also send a strong message of confidence to consumers by making laboratory testing facilities available at affordable prices more widely available.