What are Blood Diamonds?
Blood Diamonds or Conflict Diamonds are Diamonds that are mined in war zones usually in Africa. These Diamonds are used to fund insurgency by rebels against internationally recognised governments. Blood Diamonds are often produce by the forced labour of men, woman and children.
It was in 2006 that a film came onto the big screen called “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This fast action thriller was set in the civil war in Sierra Leone of the 1996/2001 when this state was in turmoil, with rebels trying to take power.
The film itself outlines some of the tragedies and brutality’s that took place in that country where rebel forces and government forces came into opposition, it was a period of time when women were raped and abused for the sake of power. These pages are not the place to describe the atrocities that man inflicted upon his fellow man, suffice to say that in order to gain control of the diamond mines millions of people have either been mutilated, raped or killed in order for weapons to have been purchased from the sale of illegal diamonds. The atrocities to the local population was to drive them away from the mining areas and also to force the locals to work in the mines. Fear of death and worse meant that the people worked for long hours without food or water in dreadful conditions to find the rough diamonds that could fund the varies armies in tanks, AKA rifles, rocket launchers etc.
Because of the demand for quality diamonds which come from these African mines in countries like Angola, they were in great demand around the world and of course, when something is in great demand then greed sets in. It was easy for powerful men who control the supply of demand to turn a blind eye as to where they come from or how they are mined. This is true of most commodities such as gold, diamonds, clothing, food and many other items, if money is involved then it is easy to turn our backs on how they are produced and we are all part of this consumer world.
The diamond industry had to have a serious look at itself because the public were beginning to ask some very real questions about how their diamonds were being mined and at what price. The words Blood Diamonds and Conflict Diamonds were now in our vocabulary when talking about diamonds and at last the diamond industry were starting to listen to its public.
When you think how small a diamond is then you can see how easy it is to transport around the world without anyone knowing where it has come from. Diamonds were coming out of these war zones of Africa and heading to ports and then to Europe for our markets.
The word conflict or blood diamond cannot be stamped on our diamonds and so it is very easy for them to be smuggled across borders by unscrupulous people for their own ends. This smuggling of diamonds is, of course, nothing new, it has been going on ever since diamonds have been found and sold, but now we had a wars on a massive scale being funded by diamonds, sometimes the diamonds were just a straight exchange for tanks and arms without the need for money changing hands. This was the barter system being done at high levels, Governments also being involved. When lives were lost; when atrocities were being committed then something major had to be done.
Consumers were one of the driving factors for the diamond industry to react and to start to put its house in order and it did this by being pressurised by an organisation called Global Witness who act and report on many aspects of conflicts arising from countries who are rich in natural resources and open to corruption. In response to growing pressure from groups like
Global Witness the major diamond producing countries, and representatives of the diamond industry met in Kimberley, South Africa to work out how to tackle the problem of Blood Diamonds/Conflict Diamonds. Three years of hard negotiating resulted in an International Diamond Certification Scheme. The Kimberley Process as it is known was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly ( UNGA ) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC ) and this was launched in 2003
We are now 9 years down the road and over 70 countries have signed up to the Certification scheme but can we now be 100% sure that governments and rebels are not using the diamond trade to back their causes ?…… The answer unfortunately is No. But a very good start has been made and a lot of progress has happened. Many diamonds are now stating that they come from areas where they are mined ethically and where people are treated with dignity, given a proper wage, and are not abused.
Most traders and dealers in the diamond industry do things in the correct way, buying from mines that trade in conflict free diamonds and with certificates that say where the diamonds originated from. Hopefully this gives us more confidence in the Diamond Industry and confidence in the future of the diamond trade.
The public is now better placed than ever it has been, buying for the first time in years with a greater degree of confidence, that the diamond they have in that gorgeous ring has been mined ethically, produced without conflict, certified to be exactly as described, a thing of great beauty.