Diamond. Upon hearing the word, many people think of it as a symbol of status, wealth, and love. However, what people are often unaware of is the bloodshed that accompanies the production of these gems. Through unethical practises, woman and children are tormented, workers are exploited, and the environment is degraded. When a diamond is produced in such a manner, it is considered a blood diamond, or a conflict diamond.
Blood diamonds have existed for decades, even before diamonds themselves were popular. It began around the 1800s, when diamonds were first discovered in South Africa. The money made from the sales of blood diamonds fuelled the raging wars by funding militaries and rebels to buy weapons and ammunition. People fought for control over diamond-rich areas in order to maintain a steady revenue flow and that led to bloodshed and the abuse of human rights. Thousands of people have died due to these disputes and millions of people native to those lands have been displaced and deprived of economic development. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the diamond industry confronted consumer backlash regarding the unethical practices.
In 2003, the Kimberley Process was launched. They were composed of 81 national governments and non-governmental organizations that were tasked in evaluating diamonds and determining if they were produced unethically. After evaluating the diamonds, the Kimberley Process was supposed to reject conflict diamonds and grant ethically produced diamonds certifications. However, there were various loopholes and it resulted in the granting of free certifications to diamonds regardless if it had been tainted by bloodshed, child labour, sexual violence and more. To this day, some of the worst diamond-related violence takes place in countries that are officially “at peace.” The World Diamond Council still claims that the diamond supply is 99% conflict free, however this can be easily disproven as there are still multiple countries that produce blood diamonds.
- Diamonds intensify civil wars by funding militaries and rebels
- Spark conflicts to control diamond-rich areas
- Leads to bloodshed and human rights abuse
- Thousands have died and a million+ have been displaced
- Wars related to diamonds have taken 3.7 million lives
- Rebel groups lead killings, sexual violence, and torture
- Exploits workers, children, and communities
- Miners dying in accidents and corrupt leaders have deprived diamond-mining communities the funds for economic development
- Miners lack basic needs (clean water, sanitation, food, equipment, proper tools etc)
- Contributes to public health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases
- Ecological devastation
- Reckless diamond mining has caused soil erosion, deforestation, spread malaria, etc
This problem has existed for decades, even before diamonds were popular. It started when diamonds were first discovered in South Africa (around the 1800s). It was not until late 1990s that the diamond industry confronted consumer backlash.
- Non-profit groups (Global Witness & Partnership Africa Canada) exposed this problem to the public
- Press coverage helped inform diamond consumers the concerns related to the diamond industry
- Sales would plummet if consumers could see the violence and hardship behind diamonds
The Kimberley Process launched in 2003.
- Diamond industry created this process
- Acted as a new diamond certification scheme
- Composed of 81 national governments including participants from the diamond industry and non-profit groups
- Supposed to evaluate conditions in diamond producing countries and certify that the diamonds exported are “conflict free”
At first, people were optimistic that it could become an effective tool for change...
Two non-profit organizations that had exposed conflict diamonds helped the Kimberley Process to improve it from the inside.
- One of the main problems is that it has not enacted strict enough controls to stop diamond smuggling
- Even when certification is declined, diamonds still end up with false Kimberley Process paperwork
- It has various loopholes such as if it isn’t a rebel group funding the diamonds, then it isn’t a conflict diamond
- Therefore, it granted conflict free certifications to diamonds tainted by bloodshed, child labor, sexual violence, and more
- Since the 2000s, situations have improved slightly, the civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone ended in 2002
- Still, the conditions in diamond mines are not always ethical
- Close to a million people are artisanal diamond diggers that live in extreme poverty
- Child labor is common, working conditions are very dangerous and harsh
- Average take home pay is less than a dollar per day
Some of the worst diamond-related violence today takes place in countries that are officially “at peace.”
- In Zimbabwe, it was discovered that the military massacred 200 artisanal diamond miners in 2008, then proceeded to enslave locals to keep profits
- In Angola, military has been deployed to artisanal diamond mining regions where it has been beating and killing diamond miners, engaging in rape, and remanding a portion of the miners’ profits
- Kimberley Process have granted all these countries free certification to diamonds except Central African Republic
- Since all Kimberley Process decisions must reach a general agreement, hardly any new choices are made
- Non-profit groups that helped found the process are unwilling to participate or associate with it because of the past failures
- Global Witness withdrew from the Kimberley Process because consumers to this day still cannot distinguish whether the diamonds are truly conflictfree or not
How You Can Help
- Educate consumers
- Push Kimberley Process to take greater responsibility
- Stop promoting false statistics
- Set/create environment standards in artisanal diamond mining
To conclude, the Kimberley Process needs to be re-established because it has been misleading consumers and failing to stop the dangerous and unfair working conditions. There needs to be a new fair trade model that provides strict labor and environmental guidelines. For example, products such as coffee and chocolate have been using a fair trade certification system which has increased wages and declined poverty. It’s time that we promote change in the diamond industry so that we can empower diamond diggers to build a better future for themselves.