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Reform of Kimberley Process essential to ensure relevance,
WDC President tells Opening Session of 2022 KP Plenary

WDC President Edward Asscher addressing the opening session of the Kimberley Process’ Plenary Meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, on November 1, 2022.

NOVEMBER 2, 2022

If the Kimberley Process (KP) does not adopt the reforms necessary to ensure that its rough  certification scheme remains relevant in a changed world, natural diamonds could lose relevance with the new generations of socially conscious diamond consumers, said WDC President Edward Asscher, in his address yesterday to the Opening Session of the KP Plenary in Gaborone, Botswana.

With the KP about to mark the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) in January 2003, it is important that the international forum not rest on the laurels of its early successes, the WDC President stressed.

“The KPCS today offers incomplete solutions, for the current definition of ‘conflict diamonds’ is ineffective in preventing all instances of systemic violence,” Mr. Asscher said.

The 2022 KP Plenary is expected to approve a new Ad Hoc Committee to oversee the next Review and Reform Cycle, which is undertaken every five years. The conflict diamonds definition, which has remained unchanged since 2003 and applies only to rough diamonds financing civil war, will be at the top its agenda.

“We were unable to reach consensus in the previous Review and Reform cycle about how it may be possible to reference violations of human rights in the conflict diamonds definition,” the WDC President said. “But in the past two years the centrality of human rights has been formally recognized by the KP Plenary.”

At the previous Plenary meeting in November 2021, the KP ratified Frame 7, which defines the key requirements for responsibly sourcing rough diamonds in the supply chain. It specifically cites the protection of human rights.

“Frame 7 was an important step in the right direction,” Mr. Asscher said. “It also fell in step with the WDC’s revised System of Warranties, which was launched in 2021. But we now need to close that circle, and that means finally amending the conflict diamonds definition.”

The 2022 KP Plenary is taking place in the shadow of the war in Ukraine. “As I stated publicly, irrespective of what I or my colleagues may feel personally about the dreadful events in Central Europe, a war between two sovereign states clearly falls outside the current mandate of the KP. That is fact, and we would be compounding a tragedy if we allowed the war in Europe to damage what we are able to achieve in Africa,” he said.

“For the World Diamond Council our neutrality is an iron-clad rule,” the WDC President continued. “The industry we represent covers the entire globe.”

The Kimberley Process Plenary in session during the first day of the meeting In Gaborone, Botswana, on November 1, 2022.

“Nonetheless, while we are neutral, we are not morally indifferent. We have clear guidelines. All people should be able to operate safely and securely, without fear of violence or suppression. All law-abiding members of our industry should be granted access to the distribution chain and be allowed to earn fair value for their efforts and ingenuity. Furthermore, the people and communities of all countries fortunate to be blessed with natural diamond resources, and the countries where polished diamonds are processed, should be able to realize the full economic and social benefits that these natural diamonds are able to provide,” Mr. Asscher said.

A non-voting Observer in the tripartite Kimberley Process, WDC nonetheless heads the key Working Group of Diamond Experts (WGDE) and the Technical Expert Team, or TET, which is coordinating the establishment of a Permanent KP Secretariat. The WDC referred to both in his address.

The WDC representative is the only nominee for the next WGDE Chair, to serve from 2023 to 2026, having been unanimously endorsed by the working group’s current members. Mr. Asscher thanked them for their support.

At this current KP Plenary, the TET will formally recommend a host country for the Permanent Secretariat, from an original group of five prospective candidates.

“The KP continues to face major challenges. A permanent and reinforced secretariat should contribute to a positive dynamic within the organization and ensure that we as a KP are able to cope with these challenges ahead,” Mr. Asscher said.

Turning to the Central African Republic, he reiterated WDC’s support for the principle that the country be able to gain fair benefit from the diamonds responsibly mined in areas under government control. But he expressed concerned about the presence of rebel forces in the sub-prefectures of CAR that are considered KP compliant.

“Since 2021 KP Plenary,  no written report has been received by the CAR Monitoring Team from the UN Panel of Experts regarding the political and security situation on the ground,” he said. “For those reasons we cannot recommend approving the requests for any new compliant sub-prefectures that were submitted by the CAR Government for approval. That will only be possible when the newly appointed Panel of Experts has completed its work on the ground and the Review Mission has taken place, under safe conditions for all participants.”

Mr. Asscher concluded his speech on a personal note, pointing out that he will be concluding his term as WDC President before the 2023 Plenary. “In 2023, during Zimbabwe’s chairmanship, our incoming President, Ms. Feriel Zerouki, will succeed me. That type of change is exactly what we strive for – rejuvenation and diversity in the diamond industry,” he said.

“This is particularly important to me as my children are the sixth generation of a 168-year old diamond business and, as I look at my own children, I look at all of our children and see the importance of  striving for integrity in the responsible supply chain,” he stated. “It is our collective responsibility to ensure that natural diamonds continue to do good and thrive, not just in the short term for ourselves but for generations to come.”