Oct 09, 2019

WDC's 2019 AGM Reiterates Need to Strengthen Scope of Kimberley Process

Members of the World Diamond Council (WDC), who assembled in Antwerp for the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 2-3, called for strengthening of the scope of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), particularly its definition of ‘conflict diamonds’ at the KP Plenary meet scheduled to take place in Delhi in November 2019.

In a statement released after the AGM, WDC President Stephane Fischler expressed the organisation’s determination that progress must be made in strengthening the definition of “conflict diamonds” so that it better addresses the types of systemic violence being seen in certain diamond-mining areas today. Additionally, he stated, the KP will also need to discuss how the new definition will be implemented and verified.

Fischler stated that several amendments to the conflict diamonds definition are currently being considered by the KP, including a proposal tabled by Canada, which had been formulated together with WDC and the Civil Society Coalition, and others by Botswana and Russia.

Acknowledging that the negotiations are “extremely complex”, due to the North-South divide, and the different historical contexts that “shape perceptions and understandings”, he said, “We are still far from a final agreement, but I believe that there is now a general awareness that a new and strengthened scope will indeed be of benefit to the KP and all its stakeholders.”

Stressing that the KP needed to remain relevant, Fischler said it should come to be regarded as “a system that prevents instances of violence and conflict, and in so doing facilitates capacity building in the mining areas, as well as protecting consumer confidence in the diamond”.

Keeping this in mind, WDC has already updated its System of Warranties (SOW), whose scope extends beyond that of the KPCS, covering both the rough and polished diamond trade, and directly referencing international conventions on human and labour rights, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering (AML), he stated.

Delegates to the AGM discussed a toolkit that currently is being developed to assist members of the industry in the implementation of the SOW.

“We are all aware of the pressures upon us to be more transparent, particularly concerning the provenance of our products and the due diligence mechanisms being applied to ensure their integrity,” Fischler said in his report to the AGM. “The new WDC System of Warranties will certainly contribute, and we are looking forward to providing the industry the tools necessary for using the mechanism throughout the whole supply chain. Its impact on small and medium businesses specifically could be profound.”

Other new elements of the KP’s review and reform programme include WDC’s proposal to establish a permanent secretariat to better support the work of KP, which has been formally accepted. The new body is currently being planned by a sub-committee headed by Peter Karakchiev, a WDC board member and will replace the Administrative Support Mechanism that today is being run by the AWDC with the support of other WDC members. WDC has made a commitment to co-finance the Permanent Secretariat.

Fischler also reported that the WDC has contributed to the discussion about the creation of a Multi-Donor Fund that will be established to finance the participation in the KP forum of countries with limited capacity, as well as members of the Civil Society Coalition, and supports an improved Peer-Review Mechanism.

The AGM also discussed the ongoing situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), which is the only country today from which the KP has ruled that conflict diamonds are being traded, WDC said.

In 2015, after an absence, the CAR was readmitted into the KPCS within a special operational framework that was created to ensure the strict traceability of goods, which only can be sourced from especially approved “green” mining zones. As part of the process, the KP set up a Monitoring Team that is currently chaired by the United States, and includes representatives from relevant working groups, civil society and the WDC.

Responding to a notification received from the CAR government during the AGM that it was planning an overhaul of its alluvial diamond mining sector, which will include the introduction of a regime based on OECD due diligence principles, Fischler said WDC while encouraging such steps, also stressed that all members and companies from the industry must still remain on the alert and conduct their own due diligence to ensure that any CAR-sourced rough diamonds they purchase are KP-compliant.

Fischler also called on the countries neighbouring the CAR and those that are home to trading centers to practice enhanced vigilance, to prevent conflict diamonds from accessing their territories.

The WDC President also commended contributions of two WDC officers, Peter Karakchiev and Mark van Bockstael, the current and former chairs of the KP’s Working Group of Diamond Experts, who successfully petitioned the World Customs Organization to introduce a new international six-digit code into its HS system, which related specifically to “synthetic diamond, unworked or simply sawn or roughly shaped.” Until now, rough man-made diamonds have been grouped together with all other synthetic stones. 

During his speech to the industry dinner that closed out 2019 AGM, the WDC President paid special tribute to Marie-Chantal Kaninda, WDC’s outgoing Executive Director. “[T]hrough her personality, history and understanding, she has instilled within us a sensibility and broader perception of our industry that will remain long after her departure. We wish her the very best of luck,” he said.

Concluding his address to the guests at the gala dinner, Fischler pointed out that 95 percent of rough diamonds in terms of value are mined by a handful of larger, industrialised companies, which over the years have delivered transformative change in the countries where they operate. The remaining 5 percent are produced by artisanal miners. These are considered to be at higher risk, and thus command most of the attention of the KP and the WDC.

“We are an industry that understands that when we are talking about 5 percent of total value, we are not simply referring to dollars and cents,” he said. “We are referring to diamonds whose derived revenue might potentially make a massive impact on the lives of people in the countries where they are sourced.”

The AGM was hosted in Belgium by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), which also organised an industry dinner at the Antwerp Diamond Bourse on October 3 to celebrate the WDC.

Pic caption: The WDC’s Board of Directors meeting at the start of the 2019 Annual General Meeting in Antwerp, Belgium, on October 2, 2019

Pic courtesy: WDC