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Conflict Diamonds

Conflict diamonds – also known as blood diamonds – are diamonds that are used to fuel violent conflict and human rights abuses. They have funded brutal wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people. Diamonds have also been used by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda to finance their activities and for money-laundering purposes.

Research carried out by Global Witness in Zimbabwe revealed that off-budget revenues from diamond mining companies operating in the Marange area have funded abusive security forces loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF. Revenue from the diamond sector could fund further violence in the 2013 elections.

Read more about our Zimbabwe research.  

Weak industry self-regulation all along the diamond pipeline means that diamonds from Marange find their way onto global markets, despite US and EU sanctions against certain diamond mining companies.

Companies buying or trading rough and polished diamonds should take steps – known as due diligence – to find out whether their purchases have funded conflict or human rights abuses at any point in the supply chain.

Global Witness is part of an informal multi-stakeholder working group, including companies, governments and civil society organisations that have come together to address concerns about responsible sourcing in the diamond and precious stones sectors.

Global Witness was among the first organisations to bring the world’s attention to the problem of conflict diamonds. Our report, A Rough Trade, released in 1998, exposed the role of diamonds in funding the civil war in Angola. This thrust the secretive practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight for the first time. Growing international pressure from Global Witness and other organisations played a crucial role in forcing governments and the diamond industry take action to eliminate conflict diamonds from the international trade.

Following several years of campaigning, and negotiations between diamond producing and trading countries, industry and civil society, the international diamond certification scheme known as the Kimberley Process (KP) was established in 2003.

However problems with the scheme, such as a narrow definition of conflict and failure to address major issues such as violence in Zimbabwe’s Marange area, undermined the Kimberley Process’ credibility and effectiveness. Ten years on, and despite intensive efforts by a coalition of NGOs including Global Witness, the scheme’s major flaws and loopholes have not been addressed and most of the scheme’s member governments show little interest in reform.

On 5th December 2011 Global Witness announced its departure from the Kimberley Process. Read a message about why Global Witness decided to leave the Kimberley Process from Founding Director Charmian Gooch.