Ahead of the KP Intersessional Meeting in Mumbai: Considering an interdependent value chain, where risk is not equally distributed

JUNE 12, 2019

Stephane Fischler
WDC President

Next week, for five days starting June 17, participants in the Kimberley Process (KP) will assemble in Mumbai for the first of two consequential gatherings that are taking place in India this year. The so-called Intersessional Meeting, which like the Plenary Meeting scheduled to take place in Delhi in November, is being hosted by the government of India. Both will focus largely on the KP review and reform process, currently in its third and final year.

Decisions that are taken over the next six months, as part of the review and reform process, will reverberate for years to come and impact lives and livelihoods all the way up and down the diamond value chain.

It is that chain that I would like to focus upon. There are few business sectors with the same degree of interdependence as exists among the various players along its length. Each cannot operate without the other, meaning that every member has the ability to both facilitate and disrupt the entire system.

But the stakes are not equally high along the value chain. While in many of the mining regions and in a number of the processing centers diamonds are a primary source of income and community development, in the countries where polished diamond jewelry is predominantly sold, they are considered non-essential products, in a luxury marketplace where there are numerous alternatives. True, diamonds have retained their popularity over a remarkably long period of time. But, should the consumers’ confidence in the gem be shaken, they may well select to spend their disposable income on electronics, holiday travel or some other luxury item.

It puzzles me, therefore, that the KP participants advocating the most stringent standards of supply chain integrity are not those with the highest degree of risk, not to mention being among the greatest potential beneficiaries of increased revenues from their diamond resources. That said, we must appreciate the natural sense of discomfort felt by some participants of being lectured to by those who, in the past, had colonized their lands and lives. But that cannot discount the fact that we all are interdependent, and to dismiss the concerns of consuming nations is not only non-productive, but is likely to be counter-productive as well.

As the intermediary links in the chain that connect the mining sector to the consuming markets, we in the diamond and jewelry industries are acutely aware of the pressures under which both operate, and it is for this reason that we are convinced that all of our interests converge by enabling and then demonstrating the nation-building capacity of natural diamonds, especially in countries where artisanal and small-scale mining are dominant.

It is for this reason that the new WDC System of Warranties expressly references human and labor rights, anti-money laundering and anti-corruption, and why we advocate together with civil society that, as part of the KP reform process, the “conflict diamonds” definition be expanded to include all forms of systemic violence.

We hope to report significant progress from Mumbai.

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