Monday, July 4, 2011

Blood Diamonds

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ʑIntroduction





For decades, diamonds have been the symbol of love, hope and the bond between human beings.


Those in First World Nations, where more than 75% of all diamonds are sold, know little of the extent


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to which human beings in Third World countries, particularly those in Western Africa and regions of India,


suffer because of the demand for these precious gems. The exploration, mining and distribution efforts


involved in the diamond industry are blamed by some organizations for bloody armed conflict, terrible


deprivation, and corruption that is out of control. In contrast, there are other important and influential


groups who promote a responsible diamond industry as the answer to the social and economic problems


of developing countries. The debate and controversy between these very different opinion continues to


rage on. All the time, new sources of diamonds, like Canada, continue to be explored. Solutions,


however promising, have not yet resolved this ongoing and complicated global issue.


The Historical Misery of the Diamond Industry


The diamond has been the subject of much controversy since it was first mined in the mid


1800’s. The largest diamond mining company, De Beer’s, was founded in 1866, and is still considered


a leading force in the world marketplace. Early in the 100’s mining began in Africa and the often


tragic legacy of the diamond industry on that continent began. Several countries, in particular, were


found to be wonderful sources of diamonds. These included those countries today known as


Botswana, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Diamond mining


has continued in all these countries, usually with the participation of the government of the time, but


often without the usual profits and benefits normally given back to a “host” country. For example, in


15, De Beer’s entered into an agreement with the government of Sierra Leone which gave them


complete prospecting and mining rights for years. However, the colonial government of Great


Britain at the time did not adequately police or supervise the diamond industry. In 161, when the


country gained independence, no stable government took power. Without a stable government and


without adequate policing systems, the country was over-run by illicit miners and the sale of illicit


diamonds became a way for the wealthy to maintain political power.


India has been used by the diamond polishing and cutting industry for many decades because of


the accessibility of cheap labour and the country’s favourable tariff policies. Human rights violations,


including the use of child labour, have been well documented by this industry and until very recently,


even reputable diamond businesses were still in violation of basic human rights standards. Child labour


was common for children’s eyes were considered superior to those of adults, and so they were


employed to cut the very small diamonds. Since the mid 10’s, De Beers India and other companies


employing people in the trade, have begun using high tech machines to take the place of children.


Nevertheless, the human rights violations in the diamond cutting and polishing industry in India continue


to be well documented.





Blood Diamonds





Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are those that are sold illegally for weapons


or to continue an armed conflict against a government that is considered to be “legitimate.” In several


countries that suffer from civil wars, governments and rebels try to gain control of the diamond mines


because diamonds are the easiest and fastest way to make money. Money is the key to seizing control


of a country. The diamonds when extracted can be easily smuggled outside of Africa to one of the


many black markets waiting to purchase them. This process robs African countries of their rich


resources. What is even more disturbing is that these African resources will be sold to finance the


purchase of guns that will be used to control and destroy the African people so that even more


resources can be extracted.





The most recent conflict in Sierra Leone which lasted almost years, saw the RUF


(Revolutionary United Front) launch and support a civil war in that country through attempts to control


the diamond market. In Angola, the Capitalist National Union for the Independence of Angola


(UNITA), continues to rely on blood diamonds to fund its armed challenge to the government. Those


who smuggle blood diamonds are known for their brutality. There are terrible images of people,


including children, with limbs hacked off by those who are trying to intimidate an entire country.


Intimidation is the way that these armed rebels get to the diamond mines and take over the otherwise


legitimate diamond industry. There are stories of the execution of hundreds of people and of the


displacement of thousands of others as people are driven from their land or forced to work as slaves in


the mines. Unfortunately, there is a big market for diamonds and smuggling has proven to be a very


lucrative way to tap into that market. Once a diamond it polished, it is impossible to tell where it has


come from, making it very hard to tell which diamonds have been sold to arm rebels and which have


come through the operation of qualified business. It is suggested that the black market for these blood


diamonds “exists principally in Europe, where the diamonds can be easily smuggled due to closer


proximately, and looser smuggling constabulary (ie. Policing).”





Trade in diamonds, unlike cash, is very hard to trace, and the movement of diamonds between


countries can be done much more discretely. It has come to be known that diamonds may be more


available to some terrorist groups than cash. It is suspected that Al Quaeda may be using diamonds as


a way to operate its terrorist movement now that the United States has cracked down on funding


sources for them. Since September 11, 001, the United States and its allies have become very much


more involved in trying to stop the trade of blood diamonds and there has been more surveillance of


those rebels suspected of involvement in the blood diamond market.





Efforts for Change





Global Witness, is a London-based, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that has been


one of the most important groups in the effort to bring attention to the blood diamond crisis. “Global


Witness launched a groundbreaking report on the issue in December 18, and it was the first NGO to


bring the issue of conflict diamonds to the attention of the diamond trade, world governments and the


United Nations; forcing them to recognize that the trade in these diamonds was, and is, unacceptable.”


Global Witness revealed how the blood diamond trade had financed the atrocious civil conflicts


in Africa. This organization also drew attention to how the diamond business had secretly been hoping


that the rest of the world would help to solve the illegal trade in diamonds so that their own business


expenses would not have to increase. Up until this time, large multi-national diamond firms, like De


Beer’s, were buying diamonds from conflict areas. Global Witness was an important force in bringing


this practice into the open and getting De Beer’s to stop this practice and thus reduce some of the


demand for illegal diamonds. Global Witness went further and demanded that De Beer’s and other


central diamond buying organizations guarantee that their diamonds would not originate in mines located


in war-torn countries.


The United Nations, again pressured by Global Witness, passed a resolution on December 1,


000, on the role of diamonds in the world’s most bloody civil wars. Sanctions against countries like


Sierra Leone had already been put into place by the United Nations which included sanctions that


prohibited the illegal sale, trade, and export of these gems. The was also attention paid to the role of


Liberia, most specifically, in the export of blood diamonds from Sierra Leone, and the United Nations


placed strict sanctions of the trade in diamonds from this country. All resolutions from the United


Nations called for a program that certified the origins of diamonds and proved that they had not been


sold to fund civil wars or illegal terrorist activities.


In 000, the Kimberley Process was formed when Global Witness joined with representatives


of the diamond industry and officials from countries who import and export diamonds. Amnesty


International joined soon after the formation of the Kimberley Process. Kimberley is a region in South


Africa that is well known for its diamond mining and it was the first place to host the meeting of


interested parties in their quest to develop a new regulatory process. In November of 001, the


member organizations designed the Kimberley Process to ensure that all cross-boarder shipments of


diamonds have documents that cannot be forged and that state the origin of the diamonds. There was


an agreement that each and every diamond purchased must have a Kimberley Process Certificate that


states that it was not used to fund rebel or terrorist activities. It will be important to analyze the


effectiveness of the Kimberly Process, which is scheduled to come into effect January 1, 00.





Lessons for the Future


Many people were concerned that a very public campaign against diamond buying, like the one


against buying animal furs, would hurt more people than it helps. Diamond mining is an important


industry to many African nations, in particular Botswana, which is the largest producer of diamonds in


the world. There are legitimate businesses operating in Africa that help to boost the economies of


these countries and raise the standard of living. Nevertheless, there is a lot more that businesses in the


diamond industry might be doing to help the many people they rely upon to bring in huge profits.


Recently, there has been a lot of attention paid to the fact in Africa only the extracting of minerals has


been practiced. All the polishing and cutting of the diamonds has been done elsewhere, especially in


India. By bringing the next phase of the gem processing to Africa, the economies of these countries


might be given a chance to provide for their people in a meaningful and significant way. There are


other resolutions and procedures in place to help curb the flow of conflict diamonds out of African


nations. Strict sanctions against the purchase of any diamonds from Sierra Leone, for instance, has


reduced the price of illegal and blood diamonds by almost half. Cracking down on the countries and


regimes who assist in the smuggling of these diamonds can also be helpful in cutting the availability of


these gems.


It is too early to tell whether the Kimberley Process will be successful in tracking the origins of


diamonds. Several NGO’s, including Global Witness, have doubts that the certification process will


stop illegal gems or blood diamonds from reaching the hands of the black market buyers. Observing


the Kimberley Process may be an important lesson for Canada. The Northwest Territories, particularly


the area 00 miles north of Yellowknife, have been discovered to be very rich in diamonds. Since


1, there have been hundreds of prospectors, some operating through large corporations and others,


small independent groups, exploring the north hoping to find and claim diamond mines. The ecological


impact of diamond mining in this area could be catastrophic. Broken Hill Proprietary’s Project Report


states “Noise from aircraft and vehicles could temporarily drive certain wildlife species out of the area,


disturb their habitat and migration routes.” Further, after they drained the lakes, they say that “There


will likely be no practical possibility of restoring the lakes productivity” and that “the waste rock piles,


all weather roads, airstrip and industrial plant sites will remain evident for a long time after closure.” If


diamond mining were to continue without regard for the ecology and the economy of this area, some of


the difficulties faced by Africa may be repeated. Illegal mining and diamond distribution that is not


regulated by environmental concerns and thought for the local economies and society traditions could


bring tragedy to the Canadian north, just as it has to the African west.


Endnotes





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