You want to make sure that the diamond you are putting on your loved one’s finger did not help cut off the finger or a hand of a child in Sierra Leone, Angola or the Congo. - DeBeers Diamonds
Conflict Diamonds are diamonds that finance the military activities of rebel movements fighting internationally recognized governments, mainly in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.
Once diamonds reach the market, several factors make it difficult to trace their origins. Rebel forces often secretly smuggle diamonds out of their own countries, so diamonds that appear to be from one place may actually be from another. Governments and trading centres do not always keep diamond export records, and when they do, the information is often poor and inconsistent. Some governments note the diamonds’ country of origin, that is, the country in which they were mined. Other governments note the diamonds’ country of provenance, that is, the country from which they were last imported. Lastly, diamonds from different parcels and different origins can be mixed before export.
In the end, all of this exporting, importing, packaging, and re-packaging and different documenting allows almost all importing countries to say: “We don’t import diamonds from conflict areas.”
In an effort to prevent the circulation of conflict diamonds, an international certification system for rough diamonds – the Kimberly Process – came into effect on January 1, 2003. This process tries to keep conflict diamonds from reaching the market, by requiring corporations and governments to issue certificates of origin for rough diamonds and encouraging regular monitoring of their trade.
Unfortunately, the Kimberly Process is not perfect. It is voluntary. If countries or corporations volunteer to participate, they can still refuse to be monitored. If they consent to be monitored, they can keep the results of the review confidential. This secrecy and lack of obligation has the potential to undermine the goals of the Kimberly Process altogether.
It is important to remember though, that diamonds do not always cause destruction. While conflict diamonds finance and prolong wars in parts of Africa, legitimate diamonds facilitate development in other parts of the continent. Botswana, once one of the world’s least developed countries, is now an upper-middle income developing economy, and has the highest annual growth rate of any country in the world. Discovered in 1967, Botswana’s diamond caches are now the most productive and profitable in the entire world. The government has kept control over the diamonds and has invested revenues in public health and education, having the second highest public education expenditure in the world, as a proportion of its Gross National Product (GNP).
Want to Find Out More?
1. Global Policy Forum: Diamonds in Conflict
2. Diamonds.Net: Conflict Diamonds
3. Partnership Africa Canada: Diamonds and Human Security Publications
4. Global Witness: Diamonds Campaign
5. United Nations: Conflict Diamonds: Sanctions and War
6. World Diamond Council
7. Making a Killing: The Diamond Trade in Government-Controlled DRC
8. One Sky
9. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: The Illicit Trade in Conflict Diamonds