News

PROMISE AND HOPE BECKON,
EVEN IN THE SHADOW OF A DIFFICULT YEAR

Dear colleagues and friends,

The coming two months will be intensive for our organization, with the Kimberley Process (KP) gathering for its Plenary Meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, from October 31 through November 4, and then the WDC convening its Annual General Meeting in Antwerp, Belgium, on November 17.

The events will culminate what certainly has been a challenging year, both economic and political, most of it playing out in the shadow of the conflict in Ukraine, which has caused unimaginable suffering and pain. The war broke out while many of us were together in Dubai, enjoying the all-to-rare opportunity of assembling the WDC Board of Directors for a face-to-face meeting. Few would have thought then that, eight months later, the world would be where it is today.

When the KP held its Intersessional meeting in Botswana in June of this year, there was initial concern that the war in Europe may paralyze proceedings. There had been calls, both from within the organization and from without, to designate Russian exports as conflict diamonds. But, as I subsequently explained in a conversation I had with JCK’s Rob Bates, irrespective of one’s personal position, this was not something KP was legally able to do within the context of its mandate. In its current form, the KP defines conflict diamonds as rough goods financing civil war. That is not the case in Europe, where the war is being conducted between states.

Fortunately, reason and sensible judgement won out. While our ability to influence events in Eastern Europe is indeed limited, a tragic situation would have been compounded if we were not able to act in those parts of the world where our ability to contribute to conflict resolution has been proven, and where we are able to facilitate sustainable development and opportunity in places where they are greatly needed.

The lesson of the KP is that progress does not come at the click of your fingers, but though dogged determination to do the right thing consistently – day after day and week after week, though proper procedure, careful monitoring and always reviewing methods and results. It’s not always neat and tidy, and more often than not frustrating, but ultimately millions of people owe their lives and livelihoods today to the certification system that was launched 20 years ago.

The Kimberley Process is not a panacea for every problem that afflicts our world, even in places where diamonds are mined and processed. But it is a living and breathing presence that offers hope, and one that we should all be proud to be associated with. The KP can always do better, and it must, but the fact that it falls short of perfection does not render it irrelevant. It will always be a work in progress, and WDC will continue pushing to ensure that it meets a commitment to continual improvement.

In 2023 Zimbabwe will assume the role of KP Chair. Given the checkered history of its diamond industry, and in particular dating back to the discovery of massive alluvial deposits in Marange in 2006, the decision last year to designate it as KP Vice Chair did raise some eyebrows. But like several leading members of civil society, WDC is hopeful that Zimbabwe’s term as KP Chair, when the eyes of the world will be focused upon it, will prove beneficial to the country, its people and its diamond industry. We recount the difficult journey of Zimbabwe’s diamond industry in an article in this newsletter – not discounting the past, but explaining why we believe the future holds considerable promise.

One year ago, in September 2021, WDC launched its revised System of Warranties (SoW), which differs from the original version introduced 19 years earlier in that the revised warranty statement includes a commitment to adhere to universally accepted principles of human and labor rights, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering (AML). To enable a smooth transition from the original to the upgraded SoW, WDC deemed there would be transitional period, during which companies still can still accept the older warranties from their clients. The period was three years in the case of rough purchases and five years in the case of all other purchases.

But the clock is ticking, and the need to demonstrate responsible sourcing practice is ever more urgent. Over the months ahead, we intend devoting considerable effort to completing the industry’s transition to the revised SoW.

Edward Asscher
WDC President