The 1st Annual Meeting of the World Diamond Council took place in London, January 17-18, six months following the establishment of the organization at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp. The meeting was hosted by De Beers and was attended by 75 members and other delegates representing the governments of producing nations, non-governmental organizations and the trade and general press.
Attending the meeting was Peter Hain, Minister of State in the British Foreign Office with special responsibility for African Affairs. In the six months since the establishment of the WDC, he stated, the organization had demonstrated the commitment of the diamond and jewelry sectors for seriously dealing with problem of conflict diamonds. “ The creation of the World Diamond Council has proved that the industry considers conflict diamonds to be of the utmost importance and that it is determined to pull together to tackle it head on,” he stated.
For governments, Mr. Hain said that the most significant advance in the campaign against conflict diamonds has been the universal acceptance of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds as the best means of removing the blight of conflict diamonds.”The last few months have witnessed a rapid growth in governments’ support for such a certification scheme,” the British minister stated. “The key consensus was first achieved within the group of countries involved in the Kimberley Process in Pretoria last September under the leadership of the Southern African producer states – South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.”
WDC Chairman Eli Izhakoff provided the attendees with an extensive review of the past six months, and recounted how the Technical Committee of the WDC had submitted its working document, “A System for International Rough Diamond Import and Export Controls,” which would later be presented at the London Intergovernmental Conference and at the United Nations.
Mr. Izhakoff also reported on the extensive work being undertaken in the United States on a proposed Clean Diamonds Act, which could be used as a model for similar legislation in other countries.
In his address to the gathering, De Beers Managing Director Gary Ralfe said that there remains a small, but significant minority that continues to disregard even the most basic codes and practices set out by the international community and the WDC.
“One diamond used to fund conflict is one too many,” Mr. Ralfe said. “The diamond industry has clear moral and commercial reasons for wanting to rid the world of the trade in conflict diamonds. We do not want these people in our industry and we do not want to see them abusing diamonds. Diamonds are the inheritance of the people of Sierra Leone, Angola and Congo and should be used to provide development and prosperity, as they have done, and continue to do, for the people of Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.”