Blood Diamonds Explained

On 27 January 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly reaffirmed its support to Kimberley Process, the initiative aimed at stopping global trade in blood diamonds. We look into various facets of Blood Diamonds.

What are Blood Diamonds?

Some regions in Africa are rich in Diamonds. The Central African and West African countries are politically unstable where armed revolutionary groups control of the diamond mines. They sell the rough diamonds and use the proceeds to finance their operations, purchasing arms and ammunition. Due to this, major diamond companies have continuously fuelled the arms conflict, war and human rights abuses in these parts of Western Africa and are called conflict diamonds or blood diamonds or war diamonds or hot diamonds or dirty diamonds.

Thus, blood diamonds are rough diamonds illegally mined in conflict zones. The primary objective of the mining is to fund armed conflicts — typically between rebel outfits and the government.

Issues Created by Blood Diamonds

In the post-Cold War era, these precious stones are believed to have been instrumental in funding several conflicts in Africa. Africa’s resource curse is that abundance of natural resources in the continent has resulted in corruption, instability of governments and civil wars. The blood diamonds, much like conflict minerals have resulted in many deaths, mass displacements and human rights violations.

Major Blood Diamond Producers

The countries which were the primary producers and hence also the worst affected by the blood diamond trade were Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast.

Although it was in the 1990s that major campaigns started against the diamonds, it is believed they have existed since the 80s.  The fund raised from the sale of these diamonds has been used to fund military action in opposition to the governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.

Fowler Report

Since the blood diamonds are no different from the normal rough diamonds, need of a well structured ‘Certificate of Origin’ regime was felt to differentiate the blood diamonds from the normal legitimate diamonds. Such a regime could work as an effective way of ensuring that only legitimate diamonds (from government controlled areas) reach to the market. Apart from this control is also required by the member states and members of the diamond industry. In March 2000, a UN report, prepared by a commission headed by Robert Fowler, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations was published. The Fowler report detailed how the prestigious companies such a de bears and others including the groups in Angola and Uganda were using blood diamonds in funding for conflicts. In the light of this report, the United Nations, the diamond industry and diamond-trading countries collectively introduced the Kimberley Process in 2002.

More about Kimberley Process

Kimberly Process is basically a certification system which imposes many prerequisites on countries to make sure that diamond loads do not come from conflict zones. It is backed by producer countries, miners, jewellers and campaign groups. It was launched in 2002. The certification scheme, brought in 2003, lays out requirements for controlling production and trade but allows rough diamond shipments to be branded “conflict-free.” It has around 50 members including EU {around 76 countries in all} which account for 99.8% of global rough diamond production.

Note: Kimberley is a South African city, known for birth place of modern diamond industry. Kimberley process was discussed and finalized here in 2000.

How it works?

Kimberly Process needs a proof by the diamond producing countries that the money made by selling the diamonds would not be used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities. It imposes requirements on its members, including national legislation and institutions; export, import and internal controls; transparency and exchanging data. Shipments of rough diamonds must be accompanied by a certificate to guarantee they are “conflict-free.” No member can import gems from a non-member. Rough diamonds must be sent in tamper-proof containers with a certificate guaranteeing their origin and contents. The importing country must certify that the shipments have arrived unopened and reject any shipments that do not meet the requirements. Only countries that subscribe to the Kimberley Process are allowed to trade in rough diamonds.

Assessment of Kimberley Process

There is no way that one can fingerprint diamonds, scientifically identifying its origin, and hence the scheme primarily works on verifying the footprints of the gem. The scheme works on mutual trust as it is not an international agreement from a legal perspective. The implementation is done by the local laws of its participants and hence many experts doubt its credibility. Also the process works on self-verification lacking any independent monitoring that can assess the performance of the participant countries. Thus, major flaw is that it is very easy to smuggle diamonds from African Borders. Another flaw is that some nations are not technically in a war state but still the mining in those countries is violent in nature. Apart from this Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is not legally binding and is voluntary in nature. Further, there are several reasons that Kimberley process has been moderately successful. These include:

  • Nearly all of blood diamonds originating in Africa are alluvial — collected over extended areas along river beds. It’s very difficult to fence these sites.
  • Most of the blood diamonds originate in Africa. Most of the artisanal diamond workshops are unregistered and unregulated.
  • The blood diamonds are smuggled to other countries and mixed with clean diamonds there.

Due to these reasons, Kimberley Process has been moderately successful in limiting the number of conflict diamonds entering the market.

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