RAPAPORT... Remarks by Martin Rapaport, Chairman of the Rapaport Group.
October 12, 2011 - U.S. State Department
“The Feasibility of Direct Marketing of Artisanal Diamonds”
Let us begin by recognizing the role and needs of over one million artisanal diggers. They are an important part of the diamond and jewelry industry and they are getting a rough deal. They deserve our support and recognition.
Let us also recognize that we are responsible for what we buy. Our money impacts the lives of artisanal diggers. We must choose if our purchasing power will be used for good or evil. Some of our diamonds originate from artisanal sources that exploit diggers. We have an ethical responsibility to ensure that no harm comes from our purchases.
We also have a business problem in the form of reputational risk. Let me make it clear – diamonds are not a neutral asset. If we do not legitimize artisanal diamonds or exclude them from our supply chain they will de-legitimize the diamond and jewelry industry. Our diamond purchases have the potential to bring about exploitation and human rights violations, they also have the potential to create sustainable economic development for some of the poorest people on earth.
Let us remember there is a reason that G-D scattered diamonds among the poorest people in the world and made the richest people desire them. The diamond trade must fairly transfer wealth and economic opportunity to the artisanal sector.
We have two important challenges before us:
Regional Auction Markets. The first challenge is to create honest diamond markets for artisanal diggers. We must provide them with access to fair markets that provide cash liquidity at transparent and competitive, fair market value prices. I believe that this can and should be accomplished through the establishment of regional tender-auction markets in artisanal mining areas. Such tender-auctions will encourage competitive selling and buying and should be open to all stakeholders including diggers, middlemen, exporters and foreign buyers.
Ethical Certification Systems. The second challenge is to legitimize artisanal diamond production. I believe that this can and should be accomplished through an ethical certification system that tracks diamond and gem production from the source - artisanal digger cooperatives or small business units - to the finished jewelry products.
The Rapaport Group is willing to work with interested parties to promote and develop regional tender-auction markets and ethical certification services in the artisanal mining sectors. We will do this, if and only if, such activities are profitable and sustainable. We believe that the development of the artisanal mining sector should be done is sustainable profitable manner.
We recognize that the development of regional auction markets requires the support and approval of national and local governments. Local stakeholders must also participate in this process.
We encourage the U.S. government to play an important role promoting regulatory environments that enable fair market auctions and transparent ethical sourcing. We congratulate PRADD on their accomplishments and hope that their efforts will lay the foundation for the establishment of free, fair, transparent and competitive markets and ethical certification for the artisanal sector.
For additional information about Rapaport social responsibility activities please email Ariel Pollock at fairtrade-at-rapaport.com and visit rapaport.com/fairtrade