Buyer beware — these days, even diamonds labeled as “conflict-free” at your jeweler might be funding slavery, child labor, torture, rape, and other serious human right violations across Africa. That’s because for the past several months, the Kimberly Process which was designed to prevent “conflict diamonds” from being sold on the international market, has been failing. But you can prevent any more money from the sale of diamonds from funding slavery and human rights violations by asking for serious reform of the Kimberly Process.
For decades, the diamond industry has been deeply woven into the fabric of oppression and war in Africa. Funds from diamond mining have been used to fund civil wars, rape as a tool of war, torture, slavery, and the abuse of workers and children. To help prevent the sale of diamonds that fund civil wars, the international community and diamond industry came together to create the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is the international certification scheme intended to combat the problem of conflict diamonds. Established in 2003, the Kimberley Process is supposed to ensure that diamond mining does not contribute to war, oppression, and suffering. Certification by the Kimberly Process adds the international community’s “stamp of approval” to a diamond’s origins and opens the door to the global marketplace.
But the Kimberley Process is failing in its job. It is currently certifying Zimbabwean diamonds as “conflict-free,” despite clear evidence that mining for the gemstones has led to serious human rights abuses. As Brilliant Earth points out on their blog, the Zimbabwean military under President Robert Mugabe has seized control of the country’s diamond mines and has used forced labor, murder, and torture to keep production going. The profits from these diamonds are helping Mugabe’s authoritarian regime continue, and rough gems are being exchanged directly for arms that go to supply Mugabe’s military. Furthermore, as the Kimberly Process continues to certify Zimbabwean diamonds, they are showing up at jewelry stores around the world, labeled as “certified conflict-free.”
The Kimberley Process has shown that it is unwilling suspend certification of Zimbabwean diamonds, despite the flagrant human rights. Meanwhile, the diamond industry continues to back the Kimberley Process. Recently, industry veteran Martin Rapaport, who helped create the Kimberley Process, lamented that it “has become a process for the systematic legalization and legitimization of blood diamonds.” Ouch. A brainchild must be pretty broken for its creator to criticize it in that way, and the Kimberly Process is.
Please take a few moments to send a letter to the leadership of Kimberly Process, demanding complete reform. Specifically, the Kimberley Process needs to broaden its mandate to sufficiently address human rights abuses in the diamond trade, including incorporating specific prohibitions against certified diamonds produced with worker exploitation or slave labor, violence, child labor, and environmental destruction. When oversight systems like the Kimberley Process break down, it is up us as consumers to make our voices heard. We can end the use of diamonds to fund human rights abuses by demanding that our diamonds be certified by a process we trust.
Photo credit: jurvetsen