Rapaport Magazine

WDC Focuses on KP

The Kimberley Process and integrity were two of the main

By Marc Goldstein
RAPAPORT... At the sixth annual meeting of the World Diamond Council (WDC), it was easy, at first glance, to get the impression that the 100-plus delegates had come to congratulate one another on the job they had done in alleviating “blood diamond” traffic with the Kimberley Process (KP). But there was general agreement among the attendees at the meeting, held in Antwerp on June 30 and July 1, 2008, that continued vigilance over diamond certification is essential to creating the right environment for a sustainable, transparent, respected diamond industry.


Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the WDC, said he was pleased to be able to say there was not much news to report because that was, according to him, a positive sign that the KP regulations and system that the WDC helped implement have been successful and are sustainable over the long run. “The truth of the matter is that the KP Certification Scheme (KPCS) has been so successful in monitoring the flow of rough diamonds into the pipeline that we concern ourselves today with essentially a limited number of instances of uncertified goods coming into the market,” said Izhakoff. But he stressed that “The system will work effectively only if all diamonds are traced, and not only those that are deemed to originate from a conflict zone.”

Avi Paz, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), added, “We have to make sure the diamond industry is pure, clean and faultless. It’s an ongoing mission, a never-ending one! The figures show that things are really improving.” Paz noted that the recently introduced WFDB Mark is “another tool that helps assure that our industry is as clean as our diamonds.”

Agreeing with Izhakoff and Paz, Dr. Gaetano Cavalieri, president of CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, said, “The goods that are supplied to the consumers must be legitimate. Our industry must live by integrity, transparency and legitimacy.”

Karel Kovanda, KP chairman for 2007, explained that the fact that many new countries, including Turkey, have applied to become members of the KP “is an indication of how important the KP has become.”

The situation with diamond certification appears to have improved sufficiently for WDC attendees to begin suggesting that it may be time for the expression “blood diamonds” to be replaced by “diamonds from conflict areas.” That, they say, would be a positive move, especially since there are barely any conflict areas remaining that traffic in diamonds.


But not all of the notes sounded at the meeting were positive. Alex Yearsley, head of special projects for the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Witness, told the audience that “Although some achievements have been recorded, a serious workload has still to be dealt with.” Referring to Venezuela’s decision to voluntarily suspend itself from the KP for two years — NGOs had called for its expulsion — Yearsley said the WDC needs a clear mechanism for suspension. “We’re all getting fatter. With fatness comes complacency. We need the KP to remain vigilant.” He further called on the audience to “not forget the weapons and drug businesses where we all know that people beyond the fringes of the diamond industry make extensive use of diamonds.” He ended by recalling the testimony at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and all the atrocities that were one
way or another linked to diamonds.

Harry Levy of the London Diamond Bourse admitted that he is upset by the attitude of some NGOs that are “very active and critical of us. In London, we’re working very closely with Global Witness and they’re still unhappy. They say that our industry hasn’t done its work in educating consumers and the trade itself. It’s not our job to go and create more publicity for conflict diamonds by saying ‘Beware of them.’” Cecilia Gardner, WDC general counsel, noted that such allegations are easily answered with material available at www.diamondfacts.org. “We have a terrific story to tell about our diamonds, and there’s no reason why anybody representing the industry to the public shouldn’t be able to tell this story.”


In other WDC business at the meeting, a committee under the leadership of Terry Burman, chief executive officer (CEO) of Signet Group, reported on its analysis of the way WDC finances are allocated and approved. Izhakoff said the WDC executive committee had greenlighted the recommendations made by Burman’s working group, asking that they be adopted immediately to improve the organization’s financial oversight.

Shmuel Schnitzer, vice chairman of the WDC, was appointed to head a committee to review the organization’s statutes and make sure changes are made to comply with principles of transparency, corporate responsibility and accountability to members.

Valentina Matvienko, the governor of St. Petersburg, Russia, issued a letter June 23 inviting the 2009 WDC meeting to take place in his city.

“The Belgian authorities are aware that Belgium’s the best pupil in the class in KP matters,” said Freddy Hanard, CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC). Still, there are tense relations in Antwerp these days between diamantaires and the judicial and police authorities. It might have been a good idea to invite members of those groups to the meeting so they could see for themselves how much the diamond industry cares and the efforts it has made to act responsibly.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2008. To subscribe click here.

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