ABOVE: Outgoing WDC  Executive Director Marie-Chantal Kaninda.

By Marie-Chantal Kaninda, WDC Executive Director

I write these words with a sense of sadness, because bidding farewell to family is always painful, but also with feelings of pride and accomplishment. After more than two years of service as Executive Director of the World Diamond Council (WDC), the time has come for me to move on. I certainly do not do so from a place of disillusionment or disappointment, on the contrary, but simply because new opportunity has presented itself, and at this stage of my career I feel that I must seize it.

I will be forever grateful to the leadership of the WDC for offering me the opportunity to manage the affairs of this great organization, and having the confidence to make what at the time may have seemed an unorthodox choice. To many, the WDC was regarded a bastion of the industry establishment, with its focus predominantly on protecting the integrity of the diamond in the consumer markets. I came to the job with a good deal of experience in the diamond and extraction industries, but clearly as an African woman who had spent most of her professional life serving the interests of miners and mining communities in the continent where I reside.

More specifically, I came to the WDC from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is a country where the mineral extraction sector is dominated by artisanal miners. While acutely aware of the risks involved in artisanal mining, I was and I remain convinced about the opportunities for the better future diamond resources can provide to such individuals and communities, who often live in abject poverty.

What I had hoped my appointment would underscore, for which I should stress I received tremendous support from the WDC presidents and officers under whom I served, was that our organization represents both the upstream and downstream interests of the diamond industry, where the wellbeing and future of all miners and their dependents in the producing countries are inexorably linked to the integrity of diamonds and diamond jewelry in the markets where they are sold.

I have traveled a great deal over the past two years, meeting with African ministers and government officials on occasion, and at other times with ordinary miners and their families, particularly during KP review visits. I have been privileged to represent the WDC in the most auspicious of settings, among them the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the European Council, the African Union, the OECD, and at the at the African-Belgium Business Week (ABBW), where I have served as Honorary President twice in a row. On all occasions I felt that we were reinforcing our industry’s sense of commitment to all its stakeholders, and I believe that we have been able to touch hearts and change people’s minds.

A great many thanks are in order, and I intend to make as many of them as possible face to face. But I would like to pay special tribute to Stephane Fischler, the WDC President, whose support and understanding has been constant. He taught me a great deal, as I hope I taught him.

I would also like to thank those involved in the day-to-day work of my office, including the WDC officers – Edward Asscher, WDC Vice President; Udi Sheintal, WDC Secretary; and Ronnie Vanderlinden, WDC Treasurer.

WDC Executive Director Marie-Chantal Kaninda addressing the Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting in Antwerp, Belgium, in June 2018.

It has also been a pleasure working with the communications team, including the Communications Committee headed by David Bouffard and the communications consultant Steven Benson. And last, but certainly not least, in a field where I was one of a still small but growing group of women, I would like to thank my hardworking, influential and independently-minded sisters who stood alongside me these past two years, among them Feriel Zerouki, Elodie Daguzan, Karla Basselier and Agathe Bukasa.

Although my term as WDC Executive Director formally expired on August 31, I will continue to provide services to the organization through the Annual General Meeting in Antwerp in October and the KP Plenary Meeting in New Delhi in November. So this is not so much a farewell as it is an au revoir.

I will always treasure my time spent with the WDC, and, wherever life finds me, I will remain an advocate of the wonderful people who mine, process and trade diamonds. When it mattered, you stepped up and declared that the industry can do more to ensure a better life for all who depend on it. Like the gemstone itself, this is indeed a rare quality.

Marie-Chantal Kaninda and WDC President Stephane Fischler in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York in March 2019.

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