RAPAPORT… While many in the diamond industry are concerned over the impending release of Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Eli Izhakoff, chairman and CEO of the World Diamond Council (WDC,) welcomes the film’s release with open arms. The Blood Diamond is due to be released on December 8.
Speaking to Rapaport News in Tel-Aviv on November 21, Izhakoff emphasized that while the film no doubt brings attention to the issue of conflict diamonds, it also presents a unique opportunity for the industry to inform manufacturers, jewelers, and consumers about diamonds and their origins.
“Now a consumer knows he is purchasing a diamond that not only represents love and eternity, but is also clean – from conflict and blood,” he said. Izhakoff noted the success of the WDC website diamondfacts.org, which publicizes diamond related facts, including details on the origins of diamonds, positive and negative reports about the industry and even a question/answer section for the general public.
Izhakoff called for greater transparency in the diamond pipeline and urged miners, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to pass down proof of Kimberley Process compliancy through the entire diamond pipeline. “The end seller of the diamond must be absolutely certain they are selling a clean diamond,” said Izhakoff. “Consumers should only purchase diamonds at reliable jewelers who can provide an assurance of conflict-free goods.”
Noting the improved working relationship between WDC and non-governmental organizations –Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada (PAC)- Izhakoff commended the NGO’s cooperation and support of the Kimberley Process achievements. “We are the leaders in this process and have no issues with the NGO’s. We have the same interests – a problem with conflict diamonds,” he said.
Izhakoff is a strong proponent of transparency in the Kimberley Process and believes that all information regarding diamond import and export statistics should be made public. Discrepancies must be pointed out along with an explanation, he said. An example of discrepancy in numbers is Ghana – where diamond exports exceed diamonds mined. “The whole concept of a secretive diamond industry needs to be eradicated. I don’t believe in secrets and in our industry, transparency is of utmost importance,” he added.
In Ghana, KP certificates are awarded to the country’s diamond exports despite the fact that in many cases goods were smuggled in from the Ivory Coast. Izhakoff reiterated his call for greater scrutiny in Ghana and a review mission in three months to decide whether Ghana will remain a KP participant. The WDC has volunteered to send diamond experts to Ghana to help differentiate between Ghana diamonds and smuggled goods.
Liberia, Izhakoff noted, is a different situation. As soon as the proper infrastructure and mechanisms are in place and it is clear that Liberia will not become just another smuggling route, sanctions will be removed.
Highlighting the success of the diamond industry’s efforts to eradicate conflict diamonds, Izhakoff revealed to Rapaport that the WDC was invited by Russia to present at the Global Forum for Partnerships Between Governments and Businesses to Combat Terror, due to take place in Moscow on November 28-30. Izhakoff will brief G8 ministers on the Kimberley Process and its success as a possible model to meet the new challenges of global terror. “It is a great honor to be invited by Russia’s government. If the KP was anything less than a success, the G8 countries would not want to hear from us,” Izhakoff said.
Additionally, as a by-product of the whole process, other issues are also coming to the surface. Not only has the KP led to greater transparency within the diamond industry but also within the affected countries as well – in terms of local beneficiation, child labor and other social issues. Izhakoff pointed out that there are a growing number of initiatives, private and governmental, aimed at demanding greater corporate responsibility and responsibility towards residents of affected mining areas.
“The WDC welcomes these developments,” concluded Izhakoff.