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Conflict Diamonds

The illicit trade in diamonds has funded brutal wars and human rights abuses for decades. Despite significant progress, the problem has not gone away. Read more

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

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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. It thrust the secretive practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight for the first time and prompted governments and industry to take action to eliminate conflict diamonds from global markets.

This had huge implications. It was the first time that the trade in diamonds was widely understood to have played a key role in funding conflict.  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. Global Witness has since documented links between many other internationally traded natural resources and conflict and human rights abuses, globally.

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, Global Witness has exposed links between mining companies operating in the Marange area and members of the military and secret police. The involvement in the diamond sector of security forces raises concerns over diamonds being used to finance human rights abuses. Despite these links, diamonds from Marange flow onto international markets.

Global Witness wants to break this link. We want the citizens of diamond-rich countries, not corrupt elites, to benefit from their country’s natural resources. 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’. Increasing evidence of the government-led certification scheme’s limitations have also seen the World Diamond Council not only take up the call for KP reform, but, critically, speak to the need for the diamond industry to change its own behaviour to ensure diamonds are sourced and traded responsibly.  

In view of wide-ranging harms associated with the diamond industry, companies involved in the trade of diamonds must act with due care. They 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. Why should a customer pay thousands for a luxury good when that good is linked to environmental, social and human harm?

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. Together, let’s stress: diamond-fuelled violence and harms should no longer be tolerated.