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Conflict Diamonds

The illicit trade in diamonds has funded wars and human rights abuses for decades. Global Witness was the first organisation to bring this issue to the world’s attention. Despite positive steps, the links between diamonds and abuse will only be fully broken when all companies involved in the trade change their behaviour.

Diamonds have funded brutal wars in countries such as Angola, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, resulting in the death and displacement of millions of people. There is a reason they are dubbed ‘Blood Diamonds’.

Global Witness was the first organisation to bring the world’s attention to this problem. Our ground-breaking report, A Rough Trade, released in 1998, exposed the role of diamonds in funding the civil war in Angola.
It also highlighted a global problem, putting  the secretive practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight for the first time and prompting governments and industry to take action to eliminate conflict diamonds from global markets.  An international governmental certification scheme, known as the Kimberley Process, was set up to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds.

Despite these positive steps, the issue has not gone away. Our research has shown how profits from diamonds helped fund the conflict in the Central African Republic, which has left hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. In Zimbabwe, we exposed links between mining companies operating in the Marange area and members of the military and secret police.

The Kimberley Process is not going to clean up the trade alone. The United Nations General Assembly has encouraged strengthening of the Kimberley Process to ensure it ‘remains relevant’. Yet increasing evidence of the government-led certification scheme’s limitations have also seen the World Diamond Council not only take up the call for eform, but, critically, speak to the need for the diamond industry to change its own behaviour to ensure diamonds are sourced and traded responsibly. 

What companies can do

Companies involved in the trade of diamonds must check their supply chains to ensure that they do not facilitate the trade in diamonds linked to human rights abuses and other harms and to ensure that these diamonds do not enter global markets. Then they must report on their efforts. This process, known as supply chain due diligence, is essential if we want to end the trade in diamonds associated with abuse.

What consumers can do

As for consumers, let jewellers and the companies in their supply chains know you care by asking a few simple questions. Ask to see how they know they are sourcing diamonds responsibly. Then ask to see their human rights due diligence report (a Kimberly Process certificate alone does not guarantee anything, unfortunately). All responsible companies should have this report and should make it public.

Only then can we break the link, so that it’s the citizens of diamond-rich countries, not corrupt elites, who benefit from their country’s natural resources.

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Marange rough diamond in hand

Leave no stone unturned

The management of Zimbabwe’s valuable diamond industry will indicate whether the new government is serious about reform and willing to match rhetoric with action.
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A Game of Stones

While the international community is working with the Central African Republic’s government and diamond companies to establish legitimate supply chains smugglers and traders are thriving in the parallel black market.
Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process

Global Witness first exposed the problem of blood diamonds in 1998 and played a key role in establishing the Kimberley Process (KP),
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Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's diamond trade should be funding development. Instead, there is a risk that diamonds are funding repression.