February 14th, 2008
By Charles Wyndham.
Competition between centres is no bad thing, so the Israeli Rough Diamond Conference at the very least serves to keep others sharp.
As a conference it was well organised, the gala dinner was generous and the venue well decked out. Care and attention and a desire to please was clearly evident.
These are very much the same attributes that one could also refer to in discussing last year’s Antwerp Diamond Conference, though there certainly seemed a higher degree of order in Israel.
It is simply intriguing to observe the differences in style between the two centres.
The Antwerp conference pulled off a coup in my opinion in getting Joseph Stiglitz to speak. A genuine coup which was rather let down by the rants of Bob Geldof at the dinner, a spectacle which was not conducive to anyone’s digestion, though touching to the politically correct in the audience.
As a speaker I can say that I was not overawed by any particular originality in any speeches.
To be quite frank many of the key note speeches I found distressingly boring.
If anyone wants some glimmer of excitement it might be an idea to give any speaker from De Beers a miss. Both Gareth Penny’s and Varda’s speeches were intemperate in their boredom.
That said I thought how Varda handled some of the well directed questions subsequently was done with grace and a touch of subtlety in what would have been tricky for anyone.
It is difficult to come up with any convincing story when the recently published results were so catastrophic and all know that the whole policy is rapidly imploding.
What the hell can you expect them to talk about, and what is anyone expecting to hear that might be in the slightest bit informative?
As a kindness to one and all and in particular Gareth, best to leave him off the agenda unless you are particularly interested to hear at a rough diamond conference about the safety record of a mining company.
However well conferences are organised and however the generous intentions, today they simply do come over as bit of another travelling circus as the same speakers get trotted and out with pretty much the same speeches in rote of boring monotony.
All the difficult issues are passed by and everything seems to get lost in a dimmed environment of ennui, spoilt by the lights going up for a couple of token questions per speaker in a vain attempt to get some dialogue.
The posturing and overwhelming desire to please induced by these conferences is simply not conducive to dialogue.
My suggestion is that firstly someone comes up with a really different format, secondly that there is no more than one such conference in every 12 months.
If it is a get together that everyone wants, well let that be organised without the speeches.
What has to be avoided is the self congratulatory abyss of tickled vanities, it is insufficiently interesting for all but those to whom it is specifically directed, and most others probably have better things to do than be the extras to make it all worth while for the chosen few.
I suppose the most telling speech at this conference was that of the Russian delegation when Sergei Vybornov spoke for less than five minutes giving the impression that he was less than amused.
Such a sense of humour failure on his part may have been simply the long wait up on the Dias waiting to speak as Gareth’s speech over ran by 100% to 40 minutes.
To me oddly it was the opening addresses which showed the slightest impact as firstly Jeffrey Fischler argued passionately against diamond derivatives and then Moti Ganz against diamond tenders.
I disagree with both but at least someone said something apart from hello and goodbye.
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