As defined by the United Nations (UN) a conflict diamond is, any diamond that is mined in areas controlled by forces opposed to the legitimate, internationally recognised government of a country and that is sold to fund military action against that government.
This definition was coined in the 1990s due to the brutal civil wars caused by rebel groups based in diamond-rich areas of central and western Africa; although conflict was apparent in these parts of Africa, the warfare that arose in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone had major impact in directing the western worlds attention to the destructive role of diamonds. The proceeds from the rough diamonds mined in rebel-controlled areas were used to buy arms and war material for the rebel groups. Some of these groups conducted extremely violent campaigns that brought great suffering to civilians.
Once a conflict diamond, also known as a blood diamond, had been cut and polished and put into the processing stream it was virtually identical to any other diamond. During this time concern arose over the entry of these gemstones into the massive consumer markets in the western world, as consumers were unable to distinguish the difference between the legitimate and conflict stones. Due to this concern, diamond traders became worried that the growing revulsion against conflict diamonds could lead to a boycott of all the gems.
The UN Security Council issued a report regarding the occupancy of conflict diamonds in the world markets in 2000. This report specifically implicated Anglo-South African company, De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., who controlled approximately 60 percent of the global trade in rough gemstones at the time. The world’s largest diamond market located in Antwerp, Belgium was also heavily criticized; due to their lack of verification on the origin of the stones traded there. In reaction to this, trade associations banded with human rights groups and the UN to assist in the creation of the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is a certification scheme to assist in verifying whether exporting countries’ diamonds are ‘conflict-free.’ The Kimberley Process began in 2003 and since then the worst of the African civil wars have ceased, allowing central governments to restore control over the once rebel-held areas; because of this the share of blood diamonds in the global diamond trade has fallen from as high as 15 percent in the 1990s to less than 1 percent in 2010. During this time the diamond industry also adopted a voluntary “System of Warranties” to assure consumers that their diamonds are from sources free of conflict.
Today 69 governments have enshrined into their national law the Kimberley Process Certification System, and now more than 99% of the world’s diamonds are from conflict free sources. However, even one conflict diamond is one too many. The diamond industry continues to work with governments, NGOs and the UN to strengthen the Kimberley Process and the System of Warranties. While diamonds have been used to fund conflict, the problem is not the diamonds themselves but the rebels who exploit diamonds (along with other natural resources) to achieve their illicit goals. The vast majority of diamonds come from countries at peace. These countries have been able to invest the revenue from diamonds into the development of infrastructure, schools and hospitals for the good of the communities in which diamonds are found. These countries include Australia, Botswana, Canada, Namibia, Russia, South Africa and Tanzania.
How Can Consumers Help?
Consumers can aid in the effort to ensure that diamonds do not fund conflict. Only buy from a reputable jeweller.
Here are three questions to test the jeweller’s commitment to preventing trade in conflict diamonds:
- How can I be sure that none of your jewellery contains conflict diamonds?
- Do you know where the diamonds you sell come from?
- Can I see a copy of your company’s policy on conflict diamonds?
Every dealer should be prepared to provide you with a “System of Warranties” written statement or words to this effect.
The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations Resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.
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