The 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the World Diamond Council (WDC) got under way in Mumbai today, hosted by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
WDC President Stephane Fischler said in his address to the inaugural gathering that the degrading of the ethical climate of the global diamond industry, with issues ranging from the smallest delayed payment to defrauding banks, was its big concern today.
Fischler observed that when he joined the industry in the late 1970s, his name was his guarantee, while his mandatory membership of a diamond bourse provided legality to his business. By the 1990s, rebel groups were using diamonds to finance conflicts. The Kimberley Process (KP) was the industry’s own initiative to correct the wrongs and it had succeeded in tackling the menace of conflict diamonds.
Nevertheless, he noted, in today’s world, reputation was questionable and third parties had to confirm one’s good standing. Fake news added to the divisions within society and imperilled the cherished journey of the diamond from discovery to a loved one. The industry mid-stream has lost power to both the mining and retail ends.
Yet the industry still needed to confront the issues. The KP’s System of Warranties (SoW) needed to be reviewed and the definition of conflict diamonds needed to be widened to also encompass the ensuring of fair value to the artisanal diamond miners. The industry had to ensure that this sectory, which produces just five percent of all the diamonds mined in the world was given parity with those who were involved with the 95 percent of that was mined in the organised sector.
GJEPC Chairman Pramod Agrawal, in his address, said that the industry had to reform the way it did business and that much of the reform had to come in self-regulation. He said that no amount of external regulations could bring about meaningful change without change from within.
Saying the GJEPC was behind the push to change, Agrawal was optimistic that a permanent UN Secretariat for the KP would be possible by next year, when India took over as Chair.
On the issue of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines on the nomenclature for diamonds, Agrawal said the GJEPC held the view that there ought to be separate names for natural and lab-grown diamonds. He stated this would eliminate confusion in the minds of consumers. He added that the industry should also send a strong message of confidence to consumers by making laboratory testing facilities available at affordable prices more widely available.
Indian Ministry of Commerce Deputy Secretary Senthil Nathan, representing the Indian Government, which is currently Vice Chair of the KP, said India would push for the widening of the KP ambit to include a role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, anti-money laundering initiatives as well as anti-terror finance initiatives.
Noting that issues of poverty and combating child labour were priorities with the government, the Deputy Secretary said that skill development and achieving gender parity in the industry needed to be focussed on.
European Union Ambassador Philippe Beke, who represented the KP Chair, said the EU looked for industry support in the reform process as this was something seen as necessary. He added that the peer review process and the gathering and analysis of statistical data were also important agendas.