Izhakoff to KP Participants: ‘Failure is not an option’

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RAPAPORT… The following speech (text) was delivered by World Diamond Council (WDC) chairman, Eli Izhakoff, at the Kimberley Process Plenary  opening session on November 6 in Gaborone, Botswana:   
  
“Mr. Chairman, Participants and Observers of the Kimberley Process,
 
Thank you for the opportunity to address this Plenary. 

I believe this constitutes the most important plenary session in the history of the Kimberley Process.  Over the next few days it will become clear whether or not this unique collaboration of governments, civil society and the international diamond industry – on which many of us have laboured so hard over the past six years – has successfully secured the future of this international agreement to eradicate conflict diamonds.

In the view of the diamond industry, failure is not an option.

Millions of people around the world depend on the diamond industry for their livelihoods, many of them from developing countries.  Countries, like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa that have used this precious natural resource to help build stable and thriving democracies, and to bring the benefits of education, healthcare and employment to their people.

We in the diamond industry acknowledge that to ensure a sustainable future for ourselves, countries like Botswana, the other diamond producing countries and critically those countries recovering from conflict, the industry must act responsibly and ensure that our business is both transparent and accountable.  In order to achieve this we need a Kimberley Process Certification Scheme that is effective and above all credible.

Some cynical and ill-informed observers have said that the diamond industry is not interested in a robust and effective Certification Scheme.

This is an absurd and unjust view that, in any case, defies logic.  This is an industry that, more than most, is dependent on safeguarding consumer confidence.

The Kimberley Process is our primary safeguard. 

Let me make this absolutely clear.  The international diamond industry believes that a workable and effective Kimberley Process is absolutely essential if we and the millions of people who depend on this industry are to be properly protected from criminal activity and rebel or terrorist organizations that have no interest whatsoever in protecting the lives of innocents, in business ethics or in sustainable development in Africa. 

We will not tolerate these people in, or associated in any way with our industry and we urge all Participant governments to do everything in their power to bring them to justice.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen.  We have a busy few days ahead of us.  Have no doubt, the eyes of the world are on us and they will expect us all to deliver.

First, and most pressing, is for this Plenary to agree on a resolution that will deal with reports of diamonds being smuggled from Ivory Coast into neighbouring countries.  We also call for urgent and immediate action to be taken to investigate and address alleged violations of the Kimberley Process in several other participant countries.  Whatever measures are necessary to achieve this must be agreed amongst Participants this week and implemented without further delay.

We encourage all Participant governments to review their own internal Kimberley Process control mechanisms to ensure they are fully effective, with particular regard to the need for periodic physical inspections of imports and exports of rough diamonds and random sampling of traders in rough diamonds to verify compliance.

Furthermore, with regard to recommendations in the Kimberley Process Review, the World Diamond Council believes it important for the credibility of the Kimberley Process, and in the interests of transparency, that statistics on the movement of rough diamonds be made public, and urges Participants to cooperate with the Working Group on Statistics to ensure such statistics are complied, collated and published most effectively.

At the June intersessional, government, civil society and industry all agreed that the peer review missions had exceeded expectations.  They are one of several measures that have brought real credibility to the Kimberley Process, not least through the participation of civil society in these missions.  However, we agree with civil society that their continued participation is not sustainable unless they are properly funded.  It is not reasonable to expect them to carry on paying their own way when they are constrained by limited budgets and provide such a valuable service to the Kimberley Process.  Whilst the industry will of course continue to fund its own participation in review missions, we recommend that the Working Group on Monitoring devise an appropriate and equitable solution.

It is also of critical importance that the reports of the peer review missions are produced and acted upon swiftly. The current delay in some of these reports is unacceptable and immensely damaging to the credibility of the Kimberley Process.

The World Diamond Council and those it represents are proud of the contribution made by the diamond industry in the development of the Kimberley Process. For example, it was the industry that developed the first Kimberley certificate six years ago, in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone. 

It is in Sierra Leone that leading members of the diamond industry are contributing positively in building capacity and taking a lead in helping local communities to benefit from artisanal production.  The need to address the economic, social, environmental and development impact of informal mining on these communities is at the heart of initiatives being undertaken by industry in partnership with civil society.   

Industry members participate in and contribute to each of the Working Groups and in the peer review missions.  The industry has also provided capacity building and transferred skills to Participant government diamond offices, most recently in Liberia where the industry’s assistance is recognized as crucial to rehabilitating that country’s diamond industry and providing an opportunity for the United Nations to lift sanctions and for us to be able to welcome it, in due course, into the family of Kimberley Process Participants.

However, nothing is more important to the industry than the effective implementation of our self-regulation measures, especially the System of Warranties.  In recent months we have gone to great lengths to raise further industry awareness and encourage compliance across the whole spectrum of the diamond and jewelry business worldwide, and you will have received details of these efforts from the World Diamond Council. 

But we cannot do it alone and we call upon all Participating governments to increase their oversight of the System of Warranties, to check both periodically and on the basis of risk assessment that diamond companies are not only demanding and issuing the Warranties required within the Kimberley Process provisions, but also that the issue and receipt of such Warranties is being recorded and properly verified by the companies’ external auditors.

I repeat, a credible, transparent and accountable Kimberley Process, accompanied by an effective and appropriately monitored System of Warranties is essential to the future of our industry and those economies and people who depend upon it. 

Finally, in spite of the challenges we face this week, the Kimberley Process is not on the verge of collapse, as some might suggest.  Many governments represented here and the representatives of civil society have worked tirelessly to develop this Process and we believe you deserve gratitude and respect.  As a result of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, diamonds are today the most monitored and audited of any natural resource in the world, and this system has proven to be an essential and effective tool in combating the scourge of conflict diamonds.   

We are, however, at a cross roads in the evolution of the Kimberley Process.  If we are to build on its success, we must redouble our efforts, here in Gaborone, to ensure that we have a system that will not yield under the scrutiny of a public that rightly demands not just our best efforts but progress and success.  As I said in the beginning, for the international diamond industry and all its dependents around the world, failure is not an option.

Thank you

Eli Izhakoff
Chairman World Diamond Council

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