WDC Reaffirms Pledge to Fight Conflict Diamond Trade

February 7, 2006

WDC Reaffirms Pledge to Fight Conflict Diamond Trade

More than 100 representatives of the international diamond and jewelry industries, national governments, international organizations and human rights groups reaffirmed their commitments to prevent the infiltration of conflict diamonds into the legitimate diamond trade at the World Diamond Council's fourth annual meeting in Catania, Sicily.

In his report to the annual meeting, WDC President Eli Izhakoff outlined the involvement of WDC in the Kimberley Process monitoring system, and called on industry leaders to redouble efforts to ensure compliance with the voluntary system of warranties for polished diamonds and jewelry containing diamonds.

Izhakoff also emphasized the importance of informing the public about the industry's efforts to dispel a distorted image sometimescreated by the popular media. "The industry will soon be challenged by the fallout from a major Hollywood production, The Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and tackling the issue of what most probably will be referred to in the media as blood diamonds," he said. "Instead of running for cover, I would suggest that we take a positive, proactive approach. The fact that we all are gathered here today is positive proof that the gemstone and jewelry industry is not prepared to allow conflict diamonds to sully our reputation. Our actions over the past several years demonstrate clearly that we have nothing to be ashamed about."

On the second day of the meeting, Izhakoff and Kago G. Moshashane, the chairman of the Kimberley Process and the deputy permanent secretary of Botswana's Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water Resources, produced a letter being sent to Edward Zwick, the producer of The Blood Diamond, requesting that the movie provide accurate and up-to-date information about the conflict diamond trade in Sierra Leone, which is the country in which the film is set.

In their letter, Izhakoff and Moshashane said the period in which the movie is set predates the implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, and the movie could present a distorted picture of reality to the general public without clearly mentioning Kimberley's impact on illegal trade.

In his keynote address to the meeting, Moshashane said the joint efforts of government, civil society and the diamond and jewelry industries in tackling the conflict diamond issue helped bring about a reduction in the incidence of civil war in the affected areas. "As it happens, during the three years since the Kimberley Process diamond certification system began to operate, there has been a very substantial downscaling in those conflicts which were thought to be fuelled partly by the sale of stolen diamonds," he said. "Much as our own organizations would like to claim full credit for this, there were, no doubt, other contributory factors at work. But there is no doubt in my mind that the relative speed with which the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was implemented, the swift implementation by the WDC of industry codes of conduct, and the strength of the international consensus that was achieved, all contributed to the retreat of the men of violence."

During the meeting, a special committee was created to introduce programs to increase awareness in the diamond and jewelry industries about the chain of warranties that assures diamonds are conflict free. One of these programs will involve the establishment of WDC booths at jewelry trade fairs worldwide. A three-year review of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is about to get underway, which was outlined by Abdul Omar, a senior policy advisor at Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade. Izhakoff stressed the industry's commitment to compliance, and noted that this will be part of the wide-ranging review.

In his speech to the conference, Shmuel Schnitzer, the president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, reaffirmed the commitment of all diamond bourse members to uphold the requirements of the Kimberley Process. "Our commitment derives primarily from our full recognition that the diamond industry, which is so proud of the purity of our product, must not and cannot be involved in any shape or form with violence or the financing, even indirect, of conflicts that distort and contradict the untainted nature of the diamond," he stated.

Jeffrey Fischer, the president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, stressed the efficiency of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. "The system of the Kimberley Certificates accompanying international shipments of rough diamonds is operating reasonably smoothly and according to design, so that there is actually very little to report about it," he said. "While it is not without flaw, it continues to improve constantly, with circumstances constantly changing, and with nations such as Liberia and Cote D'voire barred from exporting rough, as they have been determined to be non-compliant to the KP Certification system. The importance of compliance – and the penalties of noncompliance – are becoming clear over time."

In a letter sent to the chairman of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Review of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the Alrosa Investment Group also suggested that the Kimberley Process be formally institutionalized, thereby strengthening its legal standing.

"As the representative of those who are most closely concerned with the extraction, manufacturing and sale of diamonds on the ground, the WDC will continue to provide expert and technical assistance to the various KPCS functionaries, and guidance to the industry on the details of the KPCS and the system of warranties," Izhakoff said, addressing the meeting.

The annual meeting of the WDC was hosted in Sicily by Gaetano Cavalieri, president of CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, and by the Government of the Province of Catania, which also sponsored the event.

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