Conflict Diamonds and the Kimberley Process
The issue of conflict diamonds has long been in the public eye, especially with Hollywood’s recent focus on the issue. But the international community has been trying to stop the trade of conflict diamonds, long before Leonardo Dicaprio took up the banner of social change.
One of the biggest initiatives to stop this trade came in 2000 when a group of South African nations met to discuss a way to stem the trade of conflict diamonds in the city of Kimberley, South Africa. They defined conflict diamonds as rough diamonds used by rebels to finance their wars. The United Nations wanted a way to certify diamonds that didn’t benefit these rebels. So in 2002 this annual meeting of African nations developed into the Kimberley Process and Certification Scheme.
Currently 76 nations participate, including the United States, all of the European Union, and most of Africa. It works by requiring nations who participate to have very stringent laws in place regarding the import and export of diamonds. Participating nations are required to meet very strict requirements to be able to certify their diamonds as “conflict-free.”
This all sounds very good in theory, but when it comes down to practice it seems to fall apart. The organization currently has difficulty enforcing policy and suffered a huge blow when the NGO, Global Witness, that originally brought the issue of conflict diamonds to the international realm, left the Kimberley Process. Global Witness claims that the Kimberley process has ultimately failed because they lack the ability to enforce their regulations.
The Ivory Coast and Venezuela, for example, do not meet the requirements to prove that the diamonds they export aren’t conflict diamonds. They still, however, are considered members, not participants, of the Kimberley Process, meaning they can attend meetings and set regulations. They just can’t trade with other participants.
The inability and difficulty of a major international organization to stem this problem might seem discouraging, but it actually makes it even clearer that the responsibility must fall on us, as individuals, instead. We must demand that the diamonds we purchase and sell are certified “non-conflict” if we hope to see a change and an end to this terrible practice.