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Blood on Your Hands - Conflict Diamonds Explained

By April May

Blood diamonds, or Conflict Diamonds as they are less emotively known are those believed to be funding military action by illigitimate forces around the globe. The United Nations defines conflict diamonds as, “ that originate from area controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”

Map of africa with sierra leone marked One of the most shocking cases of militia using diamonds to fund their violence occurred in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the name of this militia, was created as a political party, in Sierra Leone, intent on overthrowing the ruling classes in the name of social justice. In fact as soon as the RUF had gained control of the lucrative diamond mines their only focus was on protecting this stream of revenue at any cost. Synonymous with the RUF is a legacy of unforgivable cruelties against the people of Sierra Leone which culminated in the three surviving leaders being convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in February 2009. Without the control of the diamond mines it is highly likely that this civil war, which lasted 11 years and cost approximately 200,000 lives and many more casualties, could not have endured.

The diamond trade should be a primary resource for many developing economies, helping to improve the lives of the people who live in the country, sadly this has frequently not been the case. Knowledge of the wars in Sierra Leone and other countries, particularly in Africa, caused leaders in the diamond industry to take significant steps towards eradicating the sale of rough diamonds by unethical traders.

The result of this was the creation of the World Diamond Council in the year 2000 and the instigation of the Kimberley Process. The World Diamond Council is formed from many of the most prominent members of the diamond industry. The Kimberley Process now represents 49 members over 75 countries (the E.U. and its member states count as one member). These creations have enabled everyone involved in the sale of diamonds to take responsibility for the diamonds that they buy. There are two angles to the process:

  1. Rough diamonds must be accompanied by a Kimberley Certificate where ever they go. This certificate is an assurance of the provenance of a diamond.

  2. No company or country who participates in the scheme is permitted to trade with any company or country who do not.

This attacks the sale of blood diamonds on two fronts, through the administrative procedure of tracking the diamond step by step through the trading network and by placing strict sanctions on any country, company or person who is not a participant in the Kimberley process.

Currently the only diamond producing country that is not allowed to trade is the Ivory Coast. Under the rules of a UN security council resolution the authorities have voluntarily suspended themselves from the Kimberley Process in an attempt to regain control of their country.

rough diamond In the last ten years the diamond industry has taken large steps towards fully controlling the sale of rough (uncut) diamonds. Today it is estimated that Africa produces $8.5 billion of uncut diamond a year, which accounts for 65% of global production. Approximately 10 million people world wide rely on the revenue generated by the diamond trade making it an important source of income globally. In some countries the diamond industry sustains the economy, for example in Botswana where the diamond trade accounts for 33% of the gross domestic product. Before the international community began to take control of the industry, a large amount of trade was in the hands of those who used the money produced to violently undermine stability. It is estimated that 4% of the diamond trade in 2000 was from these misappropriated diamonds, commonly known as 'conflict diamonds' or 'blood diamonds'. Now (in 2009), only six years after the full instigation of the Kimberley Process in 2003, this figure is reported to be down to approximately 0.2%.

The successes of the Kimberley process should act as a wake up call to all the other industry sectors. If it is possible to achieve and sustain ethical trading positions in the lucrative diamond industry, which collects resources from some of the most unstable countries in the world then it is possible and economically viable in all industry. The result of this humanitarian effort is that the economic power held by those who control the diamond mines is now primarily used for good. In Botswana the revenue generated by diamonds is able to provide every child up to the age of 13 with an education and over 5 million people world wide owe their healthcare to diamond production. These figures stand as a testament to the Kimberley Process and provides evidence that huge industry can and must have positive affects on human rights.

About the Author

April May is a regular writer on many fashion and jewellery related topic and has a particular interest in the ethical issues surrounding the industry. When not writing she buys diamond jewellery, amongst other things, for online store Find Jewellery.


The above guest post is published based on the premise that it will be helpful and informative. The opinions made within it are those of the author and not of The links you may find within this post do not necessarily imply our recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them.

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