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Human Rights Violations in Diamond Trading
Globally, about 90 million carats of rough diamonds and 1,600 tons of gold are mined for jewelry every year, generating more than $300 billion. With billions of dollars being spent on jewelry every year, brands often still face problems of guaranteeing that their products are not tainted by human rights violations in diamond trading.

Efforts to combat these violations include the introduction of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a system of export and import controls for rough diamonds. Almost two decades have passed since governments came together to end the trade in “blood diamonds” that fueled several brutal wars in Africa, yet injustices occur as mentioned in top10binary.com.

Certified Humane

The Kimberley Process unites administrations, civil societies and industry in reducing the flow of conflict diamonds — ‘rough diamonds used to finance wars against governments’ — around the world. It is a binding agreement that imposes extensive requirements on every participant. The visible evidence of this commitment is The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which both safeguards the shipment of ‘rough diamonds’ and certifies them as conflict-free.

Under the terms of the KPCS participants must:

  • satisfy ‘minimum requirements’ and establish national legislation, institutions and import/export controls
  • commit to transparent practices and to the exchange of critical statistical data
  • trade only with fellow members who also satisfy the fundamentals of the agreement
  • certify shipments as conflict-free and provide the supporting certification.

The process unites 81 countries around the world which have their participants being responsible for stemming 99.8 percent of the global production of conflict diamonds. The Kimberly Process is underpinned by the United Nations mandate and is backed by leading civic organizations.

Diamond fields located in eastern Zimbabwe’s Marange, have shown that even with the Kimberley Process, the trade in diamonds still gives rise to abuses. Residents living near the diamond fields have suffered forced labor and torture, among other abuses.

Theft of Livelihoods in Marange

Thousands of villagers around the area took to the streets in late April to protest the alleged looting of diamond revenue by state-owned companies. These protests quickly turned violent with witness interviews by Human Rights Watch stating how armed soldiers and police firing tear gas canisters to disperse the demonstrators.

In March 2016, former president Robert Mugabe, with no evidence being provided, told the state broadcaster that diamonds worth more than $15 billion had been looted in Marange. No one was held to account for the alleged looting and years have continued to pass with alleged diamond revenue looting by state-owned companies, with no benefits to the local communities, adding to growing frustrations and protests of villagers.

Violence has been a reoccurring response by Zimbabwe’s armed forces with documentation from Human Rights Watch on these armed forces having coerced children and adults into carrying out forced labor, and tortured and harassed local villagers when they seized control of the diamond fields. More than 200 people were killed by armed forces personnel in Chiadzwa, a previously peaceful but impoverished part of Marange, in late October 2008.

Human rights violations in diamond trading led Marange communities to petition the Parliament of Zimbabwe in March to “ensure diamond mining contributes to the development of the health, educational and road infrastructure of the Marange community, especially areas affected by diamond mining.”

Combatting Human Rights Violations in Diamond Trading

More work needs to be done to fight human rights violations in diamond trading. It is estimated that in order to produce one gold ring holding a diamond, 20 tons of mined waste is produced. The earth mined ore is mixed with cyanide, a known toxic poison, to dissolve the gold or silver from the ore, making the land and waterways around the mining area poisoned.

This contributes to communities facing ill health due to the mine’s pollution of waterways with toxic chemicals. Zimbabwe authorities have failed to ensure greater revenue transparency from diamond mining. Regulating mechanisms for diamond mining are needed to ensure the rights of local communities to information and to protect them from forced evictions and from negative health and environmental impacts of mining.

The European Union is a major centre for diamond trade and within the EU, Council Regulation 2368/2002 sets out the criteria for trade in rough diamonds in order to ensure adherence to the requirements of the Kimberley Process. This year, the EU will hold the Kimberley Process Chairmanship. In this capacity, the EU aims to make progress in supporting the honest diamond trade and meet the call of the international community to ensure that the Kimberley Process is equipped to continue playing its role in combatting human rights violations in diamond trading.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr


Blood diamonds, or “conflict diamonds,” have been a hot topic since the 1990s. After civil war broke out in central and western Africa, diamond profits were used to fund wars, weapons, slavery and anti-government rebellions. Children and families were forced into slavery to mine diamonds, and the gemstone funded extreme violence and war among communities, destroying stability and peace. To this day, blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty in areas around Africa especially.

The Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process was initiation in an effort to eradicate this cycle of slavery and violence surrounding the stone. This process was designed to turn blood diamonds into conflict free gems, and entailed certification of place of origin, how it was mined, where it was cut, who was involved in all processes and the intended destination of export.

The idea was to create a sort of passport for the diamond, so that buyers and consumers would be able to verify the ethical sourcing of the product; making sellers accountable for the diamonds they handled was a way to increase ethical practices.

While the Kimberley Process was a good theory, there were a few problems with it: since many people were involved in the process, sellers were still able to use bribery and violence to fake certification, and the process only regulated how the proceeds were used.

As long as it was not funding a war, weapons or means of overthrowing a government, the diamonds were given the stamp of approval. This leaves a huge problem that still runs rampant today — the inhumane conditions of which miners endure.

Worker Treatment and Fair Trade

Many workers are actually slaves, taken for the purpose of harvesting blood diamonds. Those who came to work willingly are underpaid, mistreated, abused and working under backbreaking conditions. While the Kimberley Process addresses the crisis of blood diamonds funding war and slaughter, the giant blank space remains that diamonds are unethical under the certification.

The need for ethical sourcing is as relevant as ever, especially with the millennial push for fair trade. While other luxury items like electronics and fine wines are booming, the diamond market has been stagnant for years. The current generation cares about ethical conditions, sustainability, and environmentally responsible practices. Knowing that blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty, millenials are abstaining from consuming the product at all.

This push has led big companies such as Tiffany and Co. and De Beer’s Forevermark to enforce stringent standards on their diamonds. Whether they choose to only buy from Canada, or work directly with the diamond sellers, they are listening to the push for fair trade.

Ethical Sourcing

While this is a great start, the issue remains that it is very hard for even experts to tell a diamond’s origin. Not knowing where the diamond came from makes it difficult to tell if it came from somewhere practicing conflict-free practices or not. While things like the coffee bean have been bursting with fair trade market placement, diamonds have remained an emotionally heavy issue — people are still dying over these goods. Blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty, even now.

While many argue to simply stop buying from problematic countries all together, the issue remains that a lot of poverty-stricken people rely on the mines for food. Children drop out of school to work in the diamond mines so they can contribute to feeding their families.

While they are working in inhumane conditions, boycotting the diamonds would also mean boycotting a family’s dinner, or a child’s milk for the week.

Possible Solutions

A solution discussed by committees for human rights has often been to enforce fair trade standards, as done with coffee. While cutting off the problem would also cut off the poverty stricken workers, working with the sellers would help them keep their jobs.

Involving the sellers in the process, and making them a part of the solution, would not only ensure humane practices and improve the lives of the workers and decrease the slave trade, but would it would also motivate sellers to enforce ethical practices.

Such methods worked in the coffee industry, and many propose that it could work in this industry as well. Such moves would turn a corrupt business into a viable income for those entrapped in it.

While the line is a fine one, finding the balance between helping sustain diamond workers and holding sellers accountable is attainable. Places like Botswana and Namibia are already starting to put stricter and more humane standards into place. In time, the hope is to ensure consumers that their gems are ethically traded, just like their espresso beans and fair trade clothing.

A Conscientious Future

This generation is a conscientious one, and that alone might be enough to propel the fight for ethics forward in the diamond industry. Rather than omitting diamonds in luxury, consumers need to either buy from ethically conscious sources, or demand higher standards from those not yet practicing conflict free practices. The demand and need for diamonds must remain in order to make a difference in the lives of those who mine them.

Blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty now, but with the pressure of loud voices and those with deep pockets, the tide will hopefully shift more dramatically in favor of ethical sourcing and humane worker treatment.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

Rope isolated on white background
In recent years, the issue of conflict diamonds has become a major human rights issue. A conflict diamond is a diamond mined in the war zones throughout Africa to fund the recurring civil wars there. Despite the attention given by the media and the increase in the awareness of this issue, conflict diamonds are still being produced and distributed at an alarming rate.

Since the 1990s, conflict diamonds have funded wars in areas such as Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebels in these areas typically gain control of necessary natural resources, such as oil, wood, diamonds and other minerals, to attain more weapons and influence over the surrounding communities. These military factions oppose the governments in place, and so they wage violence in their struggle for power. According to Amnesty International, wars in these areas have resulted in the loss of more than 3.7 million lives.

Along with unjust violence, poverty also plays a central role in this issue. According to Brilliant Earth, diamond mining communities are impoverished because the one million diamond miners in Africa earn less than a dollar a day — a wage that is below the extreme poverty level. Since much of this work is unregulated — no labor standards or minimum wage laws are ever enforced — it contributes to the dangerous and unjust nature of this work.

Not only do miners acquire unfair wages, but they also work in dangerous conditions, sometimes without training or the proper tools necessary, and face health problems, such as HIV and malaria. Entire communities are exploited through these mining practices, and as a result, many of these communities lack the ability to develop economically while workers lack fundamental provisions, such as sanitary running water.

Despite the decrease in violence and the recent attention brought to this issue through media coverage and the 2006 film “Blood Diamond,” conflict diamonds are still in existence. These diamonds are sold in the diamond trade to fund rebel militia, and as a result, millions are suffering from both violence and poverty. To help combat this issue, the Kimberly Process was founded in December 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Through the establishment of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), participating countries now have the opportunity to ensure that all imported diamonds are ‘conflict-free’ and do not support the rebels in those parts of Africa. With 54 participants representing 80 countries, the Kimberly Process has been an important element in the struggle to address this human rights issue.

Even though the Kimberly Process works to halt the trade of conflict diamonds, it cannot stop the violence and poverty that result from these unethical mining practices. Those are two issues that can be addressed separately and efficiently. Unfortunately, poverty is such a huge and central element in many of the human rights issues we face today.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: Amnesty international, Brilliant Earth, Kimberly Process
Photo: Al Jazeera

Angola Blood Diamonds
Aside from the popularity afforded by a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, the world has largely forgotten about blood diamonds. A romantic name for an entirely unromantic subject, blood diamonds refer to the gemstones that are mined in conflict zones, often exploiting the miners and putting them at great risk, and benefiting warlords instead of governments.

In 2000, attempts were made to stem the flow of diamonds through the Kimberley Process, which required all diamonds to be certified by governments as legitimate (i.e. mined in non-conflict zones) before exportation. The program was initially successful but quickly fell apart after corruption saw most governments bribed to allow the sale of blood diamonds.

Through ongoing, the issue faded from public awareness until 2011 when Angolan journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques published “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola”.

The book documented the human rights abuses and killings in Angola at the hands of the military. Marques describes events of shocking brutality in the military’s effort to maintain control over the diamond trade. Among them, 15 miners were forced to jump to their deaths from a speeding truck at different times so that their bodies would be scattered and more difficult to locate, a mine was purposefully destroyed to bury and kill 45 workers, and there were routine stripping and beating of workers and villagers with the flat sides of machetes.

The book has garnered attention not only for its graphic content but for the struggles Marques has had to face as a result of writing it. He was subsequently sued by eight generals for libel, in an attempt to intimidate or bankrupt him, but recently the courts found his writings protected under free speech.

Yet Marques’ fight seems as though it will be fruitless without international intervention. Angola’s Attorney General is not pursuing the case. Also, the generals accused in the book remain free as Angola’s leader, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, cannot afford to turn against them.

The responsibility now lies with consumers; the flow of diamonds responds entirely to demand in consumer countries. Human rights movements are urging consumers to demand ethically-sourced products or seek alternatives. Though Africa seems unable to stop the production of blood diamonds, global consumers wield the power to deny them a market.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Brilliant Earth, All Africa
Photo: Mickeyboston