WDC President Edward Asscher addressing the Kimberley Process Plenary Opening Session on November 8, 2021.
Speaking to the full assembly of delegates during the Opening Session of the 2021 Kimberley Process (KP) Plenary, World Diamond Council President Edward Asscher has once again Kimberley Process members to agree to expand the conflict diamond definition in order to support long-term consumer confidence.
The Kimberley Process Plenary, the second of two regularly scheduled annual gathering of the body responsible for managing the certification system designed to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, gotten underway on November 2 in the Russian capital of Moscow.
With relatively few delegates selecting to brave the COVID pandemic, the five-day meeting is being held as a hybrid event, with in-person sessions in Moscow being held in tandem with Zoom meetings. The event is being hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation, which currently is the KP Chair, a post it will relinquish at the end of the calendar year to Botswana.
Speaking to the full assembly of delegates during the Opening Session of the 2021 Kimberley Process (KP) World Diamond Council President Edward Asscher warned about the likely development of a two-tier diamond industry, if the KP continues to avoid taking concrete steps to address consumer concerns about sustainability, human rights, social justice and the environment.
The World Diamond Council, like civil society, whose representative also spoke during the opening session, is an observer in the KP. Full participation, including voting rights, is granted only to representatives of the governments of states that are members of the Kimberley Process.
WDC President Edward Asscher warned about the creation of a two-tier industry, with upper tier made up of firms that are to independently monitor their supply chains, and thus ensure a growing market share. The lower, less established tier will see its market share diminishing, he said.
YOUNG PEOPLE MARCHING IN THE STREETS
Emphasizing that the economic viability of the diamond is wholly reliant on its ability to maintain the confidence of its consumer base, the WDC President noted that younger consumers, upon whom the market depends, belong to a generation that no longer is prepared to tolerate environmental mismanagement, or what it perceives as social injustice. “These are the young people who are marching in the streets,” he said.
“The diamond is a product that has the potential to both speak to the aspirations of this new generation, as a natural resource with the potential of providing sustainable economic and social opportunities to the communities that produce it, or be rejected, as a non-essential luxury item. We have the ability to decide that choice, but we will do so only through actions and not empty words,” Mr. Asscher said.
“The victims of this two-tier industry will not only be SMEs, or the artisanal and small-scale miners, but the individuals, communities and entire economies that rely on revenues generated by diamonds for their livelihoods and future development,” Asscher stated.
DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION
Why has the KP not demonstrated the ability, as it did in 2003 when it launched the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, to initiate globally the systemic changes that are needed to protect all involved in rough diamond production, such as expanding the “conflict diamonds” definition to include human rights violations directly associated with rough diamond production, the WDC President asked. “This is the action required to prevent the formation of a two-tier industry,” he said.
“Why do we persistently fail to make substantive progress on expanding the definition of conflict diamonds – a move that almost all of us understands is necessary?” The WDC President asked delegates. “Will we once again discuss the subject, hinting that change is within reach, but then withdrawing at the last moment, leaving us no closer to a solution that we were beforehand?”
For its part, the WDC is intent on ensuring that no producing country, nor any of the small or medium sized traders, polishers or retailers will be left behind, Asscher said. This is why it launched the upgraded WDC System of Warranties on September 21, he stated, “which continues to support the trade in KPCS-compliant diamonds throughout the supply chain, and at the same time indicates that they comply with universal human rights and labor rights, and with essential principles of anti-corruption and anti-money laundering.”
Doing nothing is not an option anymore, Asscher said, alluding also to the COP26 Climate Conference underway in Glasgow, Scotland. “We cannot afford to lose the battle for consumer confidence, especially when the alternatives for natural diamonds are gaining in market share.”