Dear friends,

This first edition of the WDC News Update for 2020 sees the light of day in a world beset by great uncertainty. The COVID-19 coronavirus, which only began being reported upon in the waning days of December, has suspended regular activities in a growing number of countries, with more than 170,000 individuals confirmed to be infected worldwide at the time of writing and many millions more quarantined in the attempt to prevent the spread of the illness.

COVID-19  is a global challenge without parallel in our living history, where the first priority must be public health and safety, and minimizing to the greatest degree the risks posed to our loved ones, neighbors and colleagues. It will require acts of responsibility and discipline. The sense of solidarity that has so long characterized our industry and community will be a valuable asset.

Like other industry bodies, we at WDC are having to adjust the way in which we operate to avoid exposing our members and their dependents to the COVID-19 coronavirus. We had a busy scheduled planned for the coming months. It has been changed, but for the most part not suspended. The OECD conflict minerals forum, which was to have been held in Paris at the beginning of April, is cancelled, but the Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting, scheduled for Moscow from June 8 to 12, is being restructured as virtual conference. The WDC Board meeting, which was to have been held in Moscow June 5 and during which the officers and directors for the coming two years will be confirmed, will now take the form of a teleconference.

While the immediate economic effects of the crisis are becoming increasingly obvious, the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis are considerably less clear. Precedents, such as the SARS crisis in 2002 and 2003, suggest that economies bounce back relatively quickly when the spread of the virus is halted, but the world’s supply chain then was less interconnected.

When this eventually is behind us, we will take stock of this experience and no doubt appreciate the need for building an even more resilient industry. More than that, to support a business sector that has just undergone considerable economic and logistic challenges, we must ensure that the integrity of our chain of supply is not threatened. The work of the Kimberley Process and the WDC are as important as ever.

On March 3, 2020, during its 74th Session in New York, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus Resolution 12242, encouraging the strengthening of the Kimberley Process (KP) and recognizing the diamond certification scheme’s key role in peacebuilding and development. More specifically, it spoke about the importance of capacity‑building and mutual support, and the positive contribution that rough diamonds can make to prosperity and socioeconomic development.

A day earlier at the UN headquarters, the government of India, which had served as 2019 Chair of the KP, hosted an official side event to the UNGC meeting, featuring a panel of KP participants, including members of government, industry and civil society. It was moderated by Elodie Daguzan, our new Executive Director, who assumed duties at WDC on February 1.

Elodie had hit the ground running, arriving in New York after having addressed and participated in a Mano River Union meeting in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on February 25-27, which looked at the regional efforts to support the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), as a means of improving the capacity and viability of artisanal and small-scale diamond mining ventures in Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Guinea, demonstrating the potential of the Kimberley Process beyond its current scope.

On March 4, the day after UNGC resolution was passed, we were hosted by the 2020 KP Chair, the Russian Federation, at the country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.  Together with the heads of the various KP working groups and other government, industry and civil society participants, we discussed the work and challenges that await us over the course of the coming year, as well as the ongoing need to promote responsibly sourced goods from high-risk production areas.

The commitment of the various participants in the March 4 meeting was encouraging, and in particular the expressions of mutual support and a meeting of the minds between the KP Chair and Vice Chair, respectively Russia and Botswana. The gathering accentuated the massive body of work and effort that is conducted within the KP on an ongoing basis, the significance of which is frequently understated in contrast to the way in which the disagreements within the organization are often reported upon.

What becomes obvious when one participates in forums such as these is the essential role being played by our sector in the mining countries, and the potential of diamonds to lift up entire communities and economies, on condition that the integrity of the supply chain is maintained. For jewelry consumers, it provides natural diamonds with a social purpose with which few if any other luxury products are able to compete.

This is a theme that is reflected in this newsletter, which also includes articles on the contribution of the KP and WDC to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the most recent developments in our rollout of WDC’s revised System of Warranties, which provides the promise of a responsible chain of supply from the KP certificate issued for a rough diamond, to the point at which it is sold at retail, polished and set in an item of jewelry. Our regular series on “WDC Members Making a Difference” this time focuses on Signet, the world’s largest jewelry retailer, which supports grass-roots projects at multiple stages in the value chain.

It is these roles that our industry has embraced, which fortify our reputation and that of our chain of supply. They will ensure that our industry is well equipped to withstand the economic challenge of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and the upturn that we hope will follow soon in its wake.

I wish you all strength during this difficult period.

Stephane Fischler
WDC President
March 2020

From the series