Since its establishment in 2000, the World Diamond Council (WDC) has transformed the jewelry and diamond industries, both in terms of how they perceive their responsibility toward their stakeholders and society in general, and in the way diamonds are bought and sold.
The origins of the WDC date back to the late 1990s, when civil war was raging in several African countries and rough diamonds were being used to finance the guerilla campaigns of rebel forces. With human rights activists and legislators in different countries questioning the impact of diamond sales, the WDC was established in July 2000 by a resolution passed at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp, Belgium, by the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association.
Eli Izhakoff, a veteran industry leader, was elected as WDC chairman and he immediately set about a creating a broad coalition of key participants from the diamond and jewelry industries, bringing into the new body representatives of national and international industry organizations, major jewelry manufacturers and retailers, mining companies, gem labs and bank representatives.
In September 2000, WDC's first formal meeting was held in Tel Aviv, Israel. There, committee members and chairpersons were named, who later would guide the WDC through all areas of activity in the coming years.
Developing a close relationship with the civil society groups involved in the conflict diamonds issue, the WDC, governments, and civil society groups ultimately created the United Nations - mandated Kimberley Process (KP) and the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a system that would prevent diamonds from conflict areas from entering the legitimate trade. On December 1, 2001, the UN General Assembly unanimously approved a commitment to the KP certification scheme that would eliminate conflict diamonds and institute sanctions against transgressors. It was the industry that provided the blueprint for the certification system.
In April of 2003 the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Diamonds Trade Act by an overwhelming majority, and similar legislation was passed in every country that ultimately joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which formally launched in 2003.
Like the UN, the voting members of the Kimberley Process are the governments of the diamond producing and trading participating countries. As a non-government body, the WDC is an observer to the Kimberley Process forum, but that has not prevented it from playing a critical role in its activities and deliberations. This included the creation of the “peer review” system, which ensures the credibility of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme by requiring periodic Review Visits of all KP participants to review KP compliance in each country at least once every five years. In the years since it was created in 2003, the WDC has participated in a large number of review visits to KP member countries and last year committed to participate in each review visit in the coming years.
In 2006, the WDC was also at the forefront of a media campaign, launched in response to the imminent release of the Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond movie, with the creation of DiamondFacts.org, a web site providing information about the history of the diamond trade, the social and economic benefits diamonds provide to countries in which they are mined, and how the industry is tackling issues such as conflict diamonds. The DiamondFacts.org web site is undergoing a complete update, please check back soon.
WDC also played a key role in search for a solution to the controversy surrounding Zimbabwe and diamonds mined in the Marange region. It was at the WDC's 7th Annual Meeting in July 2010 that a breakthrough was reached in talks between Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process, in which the African state agreed to hold two supervised exports of diamonds from Marange, following review visits in August and September that same year.
Always working to improve the WDC, in 2013 the Board of Directors conducted a complete revision of the WDC’s bylaws, with the goal of elevating the professionalism of the organization through a more robust infrastructure to better serve its mission of supporting the KP and KPCS.
Because of these changes, more recently the WDC has been engaged in the work of all the KP committees and working groups. It continues to encourage re-examination of the definition of ‘conflict diamonds’ to better reflect consumer’s perception of the term, is leading the initiative to study rough diamond valuation methodologies through the chairmanship of the Working Group of Diamond Expert’s Sub-group on Valuation. Additionally, the WDC is instrumental in the application of the Operational Framework of the Administrative Decision on the Resumption of Diamond Exports from the Central African Republic (CAR), so that country can once again become KP compliant, export rough diamonds and generate much needed funds for the infrastructure and betterment of its citizens.
At the 2015 WDC Annual General Meeting held in Moscow in October, the Board unanimously voted to pursue a comprehensive Communications Plan, in order to better position the WDC as THE industry voice to respond to KP and conflict diamond related issues.