I remember at the start of the 21st century a lot of news coverage about blood diamonds, i.e. precious stones mined by abused labor to fund warlords. But, lately, I have not heard much. I wondered if the world’s efforts to stop blood diamonds had been successful.
Unfortunately, they have not. That’s not to say they were a complete failure, however. The Kimberley Process, a conflict-free diamond certification program, now has over 80 countries participating, and consumers are far more aware and ask questions about the origins of their purchases. But, the conflict-free certification system has major flaws.
Here is an example of how a conflict diamond can still easily be traded: a diamond is mined by child labor, it is then illegally transported to an approved country and mixed with conflict-free diamonds which are shipped to a third country (often UAE or Switzerland) and are certified by them. Then a fourth country (like Belgium) will buy the jewels and sell them to a consumer, likely from a fifth country (like the USA).
As the World Policy Institute warns, “The entire system rests largely on the integrity of African diamond producing and exporting governments, diamond dealers, and conduit countries like the United Arab Emirates.”
Clearly, changes need to be made to the Kimberley Process to make the trade more transparent and honest.
An excerpt from a 2015 Time Magazine story:
“Consumers who care can trace the fish on their plate back to the patch of sea it was taken from. They can choose fair-trade apparel that benefits the cotton farmers and seamstresses who produced their clothing. But the lineage of one of the most valuable products that many consumers will ever buy in their lifetime remains shrouded in uncertainty, and too often the people who do the arduous work of digging those precious stones from the earth are the ones who benefit the least. The only way that the blood will finally be washed away from conflict diamonds is if there is a true fair-trade-certification process that allows conscientious consumers to buy Congo’s artisanal diamonds with peace of mind—just as they might a cup of coffee.”
photo: public domain, the Hope Diamond, Wikipedia