The World Diamond Council (WDC) President, Edward Asscher outlined both considerable progress and significant challenges ahead for the diamond industry during the Plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process, the United Nations-mandated forum to control the trade in rough diamonds. The annual meeting held this year in Luanda, Angola brings together more than 300 delegates from 81 countries to manage the voluntary group’s progress on keeping the supply chain free of conflict diamonds.
Asscher noted significant progress that the WDC and the diamond industry have made in a number of areas including transparency, compliance and auditing. However, he also acknowledged that the industry continues to face serious economic and reputational challenges. This is especially true in the rough diamond sector and in the increasing reluctance of international banks to provide financing. Asscher observed, “Typically we blame the banks, but not often do we ask ourselves what we did wrong and where we can improve. The same is true for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).”
The WDC President then turned to the need to maintain dialogue with various stakeholders. Specifically addressing the Civil Society Coalition that closely monitors the diamond industry, Asscher said, “We need to engage with the NGOs and embrace their scrutiny if their criticism of the system is justified. We all have blind spots, but we should never turn a blind eye to their findings. Where they are justified in their criticism, we should adjust; where they are wrong, we should tell them, without any doubt, professionally and openly.”
Asscher complimented the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI). “What is also very close to our hearts and really making an impact in artisanal mining is the work of the DDI. DDI has registered now more than one hundred thousand miners at almost seven hundred mining sites. It has developed important Diamond Development Standards and I do not only recommend this organization, I also commend Ms. Dorothée Gizenga and her colleagues for the work they are doing.”
Focusing on a particular concern, Asscher stated that, “We would deeply regret if the Civil Society Coalition would not attend next year’s Intercessional and Plenary meetings in Dubai. It is up to the UAE to repair and improve this relationship, and we think it is the prime task of the UAE to do so before they take over the Chairmanship in 2016.”
Another key Civil Society Coalition concern is that the KPCS does not specifically address human rights. Noting that this is where real world politics and diamond politics intersect, Asscher further commented, “As the only cross-border, international certification system for our product embraced by governments, we must take care that the credibility and functionality of the KP does not diminish.”
The diamond industry is a key source of income for some of the world’s poorest individuals and countries. It is thus vital to maintain its integrity. On this point Asscher noted, “So many countries and people in Africa depend on natural diamonds for their livelihood, so many billions of dollars have been invested in the mining, inventories and jewellery made with natural diamonds, and it is up to us to make sure that the critical and positive impact of the diamond industry continues in Africa and elsewhere.”
The WDC President outlined the unequivocal need to ensure that the challenges faced in re-integrating the Central African Republicback into KPCS are met. To this end, he invited Amnesty International, which recently released a report criticizing the handling of the situation, to be part of the solution.
Asscher also commended incoming KP Chair, the UAE, “…for announcing that they will look into the renewal of the KPCS structure, as that could be a great opportunity to reconfirm and strengthen the tripartite character of the mandate by the United Nations Security Council.”
Asscher concluded with clear words on both the challenge and opportunity ahead. “The KPCS needs to make a big step and open its arms to the new world. If we do not answer the many questions consumers have about our natural diamonds, we shall lose a great opportunity, and endanger our existence and the positive impact diamonds have on so many lives.”
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