Address by Nicky Oppenheimer, Chairman, DeBeers Group

Ladies & Gentlemen, it is splendid to see such a distinguished gathering of leaders of the international diamond industry, diamond bankers, representatives of government, civil society and the media here in Dubai for this 3rd Annual World Diamond Council meeting. I should like to add my welcome and greetings to you all, and to thank Eli Izhakoff, as Chairman of the WDC, for this opportunity to address you. I intend to be brief.

It is certainly a novelty to be here in Dubai and I join with Eli in thanking our hosts, the Dubai Metals & Commodities Centre – and Tawfique Abdullah in particular – for their fine hospitality in this excellent venue. It is particularly appropriate that we meet in Dubai, as this is rapidly becoming a vibrant and growing diamond trading and diamond financing centre.

The WDC convenes here at an exciting and crucial juncture for our industry. We are enjoying a period of success with growing consumer demand for diamond jewellery driven by new, dynamic marketing initiatives. We can look back at the last few challenging years with justifiable pride, but we must keep up the momentum of all our efforts – both in marketing and in the area of consumer confidence and ethical standards – if we are to guarantee the continuing and future success and prosperity of our industry.

Of the difficulties we have faced, none was a greater threat than that of conflict diamonds. However, together with governments and the NGOs we have come a very long way with the Kimberley Process to halt human suffering, end the funding of conflict, protect the integrity of our product and secure the legitimate chain of supply. The hugely important role of the leaders of the industry through the World Diamond Council cannot be underestimated.

We all agree, I believe, that there is still work to be done to make the Kimberley Process fully effective. The NGOs rightly raised concerns about monitoring and I am pleased to see that the intergovernmental ‘peer review’ mechanism is beginning to address those concerns. On the industry side, we must all continue to ensure that we – and our suppliers, partners and customers – understand and comply with the provisions of the KP.

For me, one of the most notable things about the conflict diamonds issue was the way in which the entire spectrum of the diamond world came together to meet the threat. That unity has been at the heart of our success in maintaining the legitimacy of the diamond industry, enhancing its reputation and protecting the consumer. It is of paramount importance that we preserve that unity, aligning ourselves closely in common cause to defend the integrity of the natural diamond so the industry can continue to grow and thrive as a global business.

Let us make no mistake, there are new challenges ahead and we will need all the vision, leadership, unity and co-operation we can muster to meet together whatever the future holds.

Foremost amongst those challenges is the vulnerability of the diamond and jewellery industry – as with other commodities – to misuse and abuse by criminals and the perpetrators of terror. The governments of the free world have recognised that financial irregularity, ‘informal’ banking and tax evasion are just a short step on the road to money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, and have introduced new laws and regulations to govern ‘financial institutions’. By definition, that means all of us in the diamond industry.

No industry welcomes new rules and regulations – they generally retard the smooth flow of business – but this is different. In a world where our personal security, that of our families and communities, is under real and present threat, we must take notice and take action. We must embrace the new legislation, understand its provisions as they apply to us individually and collectively, and comply fully, wholeheartedly and without reservation. The World Diamond Council – and all of us here present – have a clear duty to ensure this message is heard and understood throughout the industry.

I welcome the initiative of ABN AMRO Bank in convening a financial session. I am delighted that Mr William Fox, of the United States Treasury, is here with us, as a key part of the new legislation that will affect the diamond business is the Patriot Act in the US. We look forward to hearing his remarks this afternoon. Our individual national governments have also passed – or will be introducing – new measures to protect us all. It is incumbent on them, and on the authorities in all the diamond centres, new centres as well as old, to insist upon the highest standards of financial rectitude.

We must never forget the very special emotions attached to diamonds and have to be ever vigilant that no taint ever be attached to our product. As with conflict diamonds, the opportunity here exists for the international diamond industry to demonstrate that it is a proud and steadfast corporate citizen, working with all other parts of society to safeguard and maintain a world in which we can all live in peace. A world, too, where our beautiful and unique product – the natural diamond – can continue to be the ultimate gift of love and recognition, untainted by association with crime, conflict or terror.