15 May 2012, Vicenza, Italy - On the occasion of the World Jewelry Forum held in Vicenza, Italy, UNITAR organized an Executive Seminar on Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility to provide executives with strategic insights on current sustainability and corporate social responsibility challenges.

The two sessions were organized in collaboration with the World Jewelry Confederation (CIBJO), the World Diamond Council and the Vicenza Fair on the following topics: the strengthening of the Kimberley Process through training and capacity development, and ethical jewelry and social responsibility.

After a welcome address by Roberto Ditri, President of the Fiera di Vicenza, participants in the morning session were invited to reflect on the training and capacity development needs for the implementation of the Kimberley Process, and to interact with a high-level panel of UN, government and industry representatives.

The panel, moderated by Prof. Donald Feaver of RMIT University of Melbourne, included Amal Medani, Associate Director of UNITAR; Gillian Milovanovic, US Ambassador and Chair of the Kimberley Process; Eli Izakhof, President of the World Diamond Council; and Gaetano Cavalieri, President of the World Jewelry Confederation (CIBJO).

In her key note remarks, Ambassador Milovanovic acknowledged the efforts and actions already undertaken on a voluntary basis in response to particular requests for training and technical support. She said she was in favor of a more proactive approach and welcomed an open discussion on the possible ways forward towards more formalized options for assistance.

She added that, although the Kimberley Process has an obligation to look at sanctions where appropriate, this should not be its main focus. It has instead to try to assist countries with problems before a crisis emerges so that, as an institution, the Kimberley Process does not have to deal with a crisis, but with an arising issue.

Ambassador Milovanovic suggested that voluntary assistance among the members of the Kimberley Process could be formalized through de facto “matchmaking” between the needs and demands, and that this matchmaking function needed to be institutionalized. The long-term goal is to assist countries and to resolve issues without pointing fingers. Countries should be given the opportunity to improve before sanctions are taken.

Mr. Eli Izakhof advocated for a win-win situation: to make help or education availble to people without strings attached to further work towards the objectives of the Kimberley Process. As President of the World Diamond Council, he said that the connection with the UN would validate this process, as countries are more likely to take it positively than ad hoc assistance. He further noted that an institution such as UNITAR is ideal to provide the needed capacity building to help reinforce the Kimberley Process.

Mr. Cavalieri remarked that we are at a crossroads as doors are being opened. He pointed out that dialogue between stakeholders is extremely important, and that a system should be put in place to teach and spread the principles of the Millennium Development Goals, the Kimberley Process and its Certification Scheme.

During the discussion, Mr Seth Klaye, Kimberley Process Certification System Coordinator for Ghana, re-affirmed the importance of this session. As diamonds are a subjective commodity, capacity building for diamond valuers is important. Companies should also offer better support to local communities in their development efforts. Improving the skills of decision-makers should help developing countries maximize benefits from their natural resources.

Alan Martin, Research Director at Partnership Africa-Canada, raised the issue of research and the sharing of experiences and lessons learned among different countries.

Andrew Bone, Director International Relations of De Beers, suggested “mini-Kimberley Process” within a domestic context through enhanced capacity building to build from the local level upwards.

At the end of the session, Ms. Milovanovic invited UNITAR to participate in a special meeting during the Kimberley Process intersessional meeting to be held in June.

Ms. Medani concluded the session by highlighting UNITAR's mission to provide training and capacity building for countries.

During the afternoon session on ethical jewelry and social responsibility, participants gained insights on international principles, guidelines and standards related to social responsibility and also had the opportunity to exchange views with the panelists.

The panel, moderated by Mr François Loriot, Vice President of the International Association of Trainers on  the Millennium Development Goals, was composed of Ludo Van Campenhout, Vice Mayor of Antwerp, Aurélie Rumas, Director of the FairGemsProcess Training Centre, Marc Dole, Founder of the FairGemsProcess, Prof. Don Feaver and Benedict Sheehy of RMIT University of Melbourne, Gaetano Cavalieri, President of CIBJO, and Jocelyn Fenard, Senior Specialist, Sustainability and CSR at UNITAR and Manager of the Antwerp ITCCO.

Over the past 10 years, efforts have been invested in formulating standards for responsible business practices, both within and outside of the diamond and jewelry industries. This has largely been done in an organic manner to respond to specific issues, creating complex frameworks.

During the discussion, the issue of communication and consumer trust was highlighted as being critical in the jewelry retail industry.

Mr. Van Campenhout gave the example of Antwerp’s activities in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility, reminding participants that his city hosted UNITAR's affiliated International Center for Corporate Opportunities (ITCCO). The city of Antwerp has recently asked UNITAR to assist them in identifying Corporate Social Responsibility label systems and tools that would enable a fair and sustainable retail system in accordance with the MDGs.

Ms. Rumas then presented the case study of a FairGemsProcess pilot project in Sri Lanka, based on the Global Compact, that ensures the fair trade of colored gem stones from mine to consumer.

Prof. Feaver defined Corporate Social Responsibility from a legal perspective as “Corporate actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and legal requirements." He mentioned that there arere several rules from multiple sources bundled in the UN Global Compact. These sets of law then lead to company codes.

Prof. Sheehy presented Corporate Social Responsibility as an organisational agent of change that fosters cultural change in the way business operates, bringing both external and internal benefits.

Mr. Cavalieri reaffirmed CIBJO’s role in informing consumers about the products they buy. CIBJO, through its education foundation is looking to provide tools for its members to help them increase confidence within the industry, and throughout the entire supply chain, from the mine to the consumer.

Participants agreed that Corporate Social Responsibility applies both the private and public sectors. Mr. Fenard concluded the session by mentioning that UNITAR is planning to develop capacity building programs that will combine practical and theoretical trainings on CSR to enable implementation through entire production process, from artisanal mining to jewelry retailers.