Diamonds are the ultimate gift to show your love. But do you know what the stone itself contributed to? In many cases, a trail of war and violence. Read on to learn about Blood Diamonds.
Diamonds are exquisite stones. They symbolize love, wealth and status and are cherished as some of the most beautiful possessions one can have.
But, what is the history of that piece of ancient stone? Not the history of how it was formed, but of where it was mined, where it came from. This has become a controversial issue in recent years, but one that everyone should be aware of.
What You Should Know About Conflict Diamonds
Most diamonds are mined in African countries. Some of these countries are regions of bloody conflicts that result in horrible human atrocities and misery. As these are also some of the poorest regions of the world, it is hard for the people to escape from the causes and effects of unregulated diamond trade.
Diamonds as Fuel for Conflicts
In many of these regions of Africa, rebel groups and terrorist organizations use the proceeds from the sale of diamonds they have mined to fund their agenda. They even force people to work as slave labor to mine the diamonds. The mining methods are primitive, involving brutal manual labor. This creates a vicious cycle where the people are unable to find any escape from their poverty other than to work for these organizations.
In countries like Liberia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, the money from sale of diamonds have contributed hugely to horror tales of terrorism, torture, rape, child labor and slavery.
People who buy diamonds are generally unaware of what their money might be contributing to. Till recently, the diamond trade generally ignored the trail of blood the stones left behind. But, as the world woke up to what was happening, there was a general outcry to do something to stop the trade in 'Blood Diamonds' as the diamonds from these conflict areas came to be called.
The Kimberley Process
In 2000, the UN General Assembly recognized the gravity of the situation and initiated a process that would require the Diamond Trade to cut ties with Blood Diamond sources. Many African countries that have a legitimate diamond trade came together to draft a scheme by which they could trace the source of diamonds that enter the legitimate market. This scheme, on its final draft, came to be called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
The Goals and Implementation of KPCS
The KPCS requires that diamonds be shipped in tamper-proof shipping crates accompanied by detailed documentation tracking their source. This documentation is to ensure that the diamonds did not originate in a conflict area.
The KPCS is a self-regulatory process and participation in this scheme is voluntary. Many countries still do not comply with this scheme. So, the process still has a long way to go. But, it was a positive start to end the trade in Blood Diamonds
The Flaws in KPCS
As mentioned before, even now, many countries don't recognize the KPCS and so conflict diamonds could still enter legitimate markets. Another criticism against the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is that its goals are too narrow. It just aims to make sure that the diamonds did not originate in known conflict areas. It largely ignores other issues like Human Rights Violation, Child Labor, Slave Labor and impact on the environment.
These are major issues in some countries where diamonds are mined, regions other than the recognized conflict areas. Some of these atrocities even take place with the sanction of the legitimate government in these countries.
Other Codes for Authentication
Many independent regulatory schemes have come up like the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Authenticating Canadian Diamond Claims. This authenticates diamonds mined in Canada and guarantees the stones are 'conflict free'.
But, it is Africa that is the richest source of diamonds and it is there that the problems are mainly concentrated. Some traders have their own ethical code that goes beyond the KPCS stipulations. Many countries and organizations have now begun to push for stricter controls on the diamond trade.
Creating Awareness Among Consumers
The need is to raise awareness among consumers about the possible violent history of the stones they purchase. No human being wants to contribute to brutal bloodshed and conflicts, but most people are not aware of these issues.
Many organizations and even individuals are now campaigning to create awareness through blogs and other medium. Information is a potent weapon. If people begin to be aware of the issues and start insisting on knowing where their diamonds came from, traders would be forced to confront the issues.
Many websites and news features are now highlighting individual horror stories about the victims of conflict in the ravaged areas. They tell stories of mutilations and torture, of rape and humiliation, of slavery and child labor. They highlight the effects of unregulated mining practices on the environment. The link between these issues and the diamonds are explained through the story of how diamonds are creating the funds for the organizations that indulge in these horrific acts.
These stories, highlighting personal details, create more of an impact among viewers. As more people become aware of the issues, it is widely hoped that more pressure will be exerted on the traders and governments to act.
How Consumers Can Make a Difference
As the implementation of regulations on diamond trade is not uniform, many retailers can't really provide their consumers with any real guarantee about the history of the precious stones they are selling. As the law is not strict, they cannot ask questions. But, the average customer can, and in the end, it is the general public who can initiate the change.
Diamonds are symbols of prestige. They are admired for their beauty. But if the trail they have left behind is ugly, would the customers still be willing to buy them?
The next time you buy diamonds, buy them from established traders and websites who can guarantee the source of the stones. These big firms have the power to ask questions and can follow more stringent standards.
If each buyer insists on knowing the details of the source of their diamonds, the Diamond Trade and the governments will be forced to take more stringent action. Insist on written guarantees that the diamonds did not come from problem areas.
You, as a customer, can make a difference. You can help stop the violence and human misery and environmental damage that go on unchecked. If you just pause to ask questions before you make the purchase. The power is with you.