By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogMy mercurial attitude toward game-playing was so pervasive that it became kind of a running joke in the family; Michelle’s an easy-going kid, as long as you don’t cross her.

I remember at one point we got a Garfield novelty glass from McDonald’s that pictured the cartoon cat furiously paddling at the front of the canoe in one direction while the dog Odie paddled with just as much vigor at the other end but in the opposite direction. Above Garfield a thought bubble hovered that read, “I’m easy to get along with when things go my way,” but, in the end, the two weren’t getting anywhere. This, my mom declared, was the perfect glass to describe me.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I am adult, confronted with a group of adults who refuse to participate in an important event because things aren’t going their way, the latest in a continuing series of slights and fights that aren’t getting the diamond industry anywhere, just like the cat and the dog in that canoe.

As I am sure you have heard by now, a group of eight industry organizations announced this week that they wouldn’t be attending the World Diamond Council’s annual meeting, which took place this week in Antwerp.

By way of explanation, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses circulated this news release that was scant on details about why exactly the eight groups were skipping the meeting. So I reached out to a number of the groups, asking them for more details and interviews with their respective heads.

I asked: What was it that prompted you to boycott the meeting? What is the leadership of the WDC, which just named Pat Syvrud as the first executive director in its history, doing that you disagree with specifically?

What I got in return to my questions at first was a lot of runaround--people were traveling (though apparently not to Antwerp), I needed to ask this person instead of this person, why don’t you ask this organization why they said that, etc.

The only organization initially to give me any kind of answer was the WFDB itself, which said in response to my inquiry that “the following issues are being clarified.”

Among the clarifications was this: “The industry Bodies await in anticipation the outcome of the WDC AGM [annual general meeting] and the future direction the organization is planning for itself. Once the AGM report has been studied, a formal press release will be issued by the industry bodies regarding its future relationship with the WDC.”

On Friday morning, however, I came in to a more explanatory email, relatively speaking, from India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council and the Bharat Diamond Bourse, two of the eight organizations that boycotted the WDC meeting.

The GJEPC and BDB said suggestions to broaden the “scope and focus” of the WDC’s activity beyond conflict diamonds led to the organizations’ decision to skip the meeting. They also apparently are perturbed because the WDC sent out a survey to its members in which “questions were asked that exceeded the mandate of the WDC” and did not send it out to the industry at large, meaning these organizations didn’t get to weigh in.

While WDC sources told my fellow trade journalist Rob Bates--who noted in this excellent blog posted Wednesday that this latest boycott is yet another embarrassment to the industry--that it isn’t true that the WDC is looking to expand its activities beyond conflict diamonds, I am sure the eight organizations that boycotted the meeting have their reasons for believing it to be.

My question, however, is this: why the boycott? Was that really necessary? If you have concerns about the direction the organization is taking, doesn’t it seem more effective to go to the meeting and express them, rather than skip it and circulate a vague news release that does nothing but engender resentment and negativity?

The GJEPC said in its email to me that it is “expected that open and interactive discussions will resolve the issue in near future.”

Couldn’t that have taken place at the meeting that just happened this week so the industry can move on and address other issues?

I just don’t agree with the decision by these “important sections of the industry” to boycott a meeting of an organization that’s so important. It’s no more acceptable than it was for me to quit mid-game as a child because things weren’t going the way I wanted.

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