Conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds, are diamonds sold to fund armed conflict or a civil war. They are mined in a war zone, and the profits are used to finance an insurgency, warlords, rebel groups, or terrorists. Not only are these diamonds being used to fund wars, but the people working in the trade are often treated inhumanely. Oftentimes these diamonds are being mined by enslaved locals who fight starvation, torture, amputation, and even murder every day.
Conflict diamonds are generally a problem in Africa, from where two-thirds of the world’s diamonds are extracted. Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic of Congo, Angola, and Sierra Leone have all been severely affected by the trade. Many of these wars have ended, but conflict diamonds are still a problem. Diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia are still entering the international diamond market. They are being smuggled through neighboring countries and exported as part of the legitimate diamond trade.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is an initiative set up to solve the problem of conflict diamonds. Introduced in 2003, its aim is to prevent these diamonds from entering the mainstream market.
This is an international certification system for the import and export of diamonds. To be considered conflict-free, the money from the sale of the diamonds cannot be used to overthrow a UN-recognized government. In participating countries, diamonds must be tracked from their place of origin to ensure they are not being used to fund a rebel group. Before leaving their country of origin, the diamonds must have a Kimberley Process certificate, ensuring they are conflict-free. Likewise, participating countries must refuse to accept imported diamonds that do not have a Kimberley Process certificate. Countries on the receiving end of the diamond trade must also agree not to accept stones from non-participating countries.
There has been some improvement in the industry since the Kimberley Process was introduced. It has increased the number of diamonds legally making their way into the market from these affected countries. This has helped to increase the revenues of these poor countries’ governments, thus helping the economy in regions that need a lot of help.
However, at this point, there are still flaws in the Kimberley Process. It is a process that requires the cooperation of many different governments, and not all have agreed to participate. There is also the problem of corruption within the government. Officials in these struggling countries can be bribed, and often are. For a fee, government officials might provide the paperwork stating that diamonds are Kimberley Process certified, when in fact they are not. This allows blood diamonds to enter the mainstream market.
This article was contributed by Frank Fisher.