What are they?
Diamonds are worth a lot of money. That is a fact that cannot be denied. For the most part, the international diamond trade is all above board with countries trading diamonds all over the world. But, as is usually the case where lots of money is involved, there are those who try to take advantage of others even in the diamond trade.
When 'conflict diamonds' are mentioned, most people think of the film Blood Diamond. The film did succeed in making the problem of conflict diamonds public, but it also gave people a terribly one-sided view of the problem. One of the biggest problem that diamond producers had after the release of the film was that people had the misconception that little to nothing was being done about the problem, which is definitely not the truth.
Conflict diamonds, also known as converted diamonds, hot diamonds, war diamonds or blood diamonds, refer to diamonds that are usually, but not always, mined in a conflict area. These diamonds are used to fund the war efforts of rebels, warlords or other agencies that do are not legally recognised by the United Nations. Not only are these diamonds used to fund continuing war efforts that reduce the quality of life of the people in the affected country; but people are often exploited to mine these diamonds.
The people of the country are forced by soldiers and other militants to mine for the diamonds in terrible and unsafe conditions. They receive no reward or payment for their labour and, in fact, live in constant fear from their overseers and enemies who want to stop the mining activities. These diamonds are smuggled out of the country through a variety of means and sold or traded for weapons. Once the diamonds leave the country, are polished and cut; it becomes impossible to trace their origin.
Despite what many people may think, a lot is being done to stop this practice. The United Nations, in association with the global diamond producers have formed initiatives to stop the illegal trading of diamonds from war-torn countries. The leading force behind this movement is the Kimberley Process Scheme (KPCS).
In 1999, diamond producing countries met to discuss the problem of conflict diamonds. In 2000, they signed a resolution in Antwerp to stop the illegal trade of these diamonds and to clamp down on those responsible for the smuggling and selling of these stones. The World Diamond Council was formed in 2001 and in 2002 the United Nations formally recognised the KPCS and actively started assisting their efforts worldwide.
Under the KPCS resolution, plans were implemented to standardise the certification of diamonds. In addition, they urged countries to implement legislation to control the import and export of diamonds from countries. This legislation included practices where only official, sealed diamond packages were to be accepted and transported. The legislation also called for the incarceration and fining of diamond smugglers and the banning of those associating with smugglers from the international diamond market.
One of the main goals of the KPCS is to create transparency in regard to countries' import and export of diamonds. The hope is that by having information on how many diamonds are being exported or imported by a country, that early warning of possible smuggling could be detected and stopped. There are, however, murmurs as to how effective the KPCS is in their endeavours. The largest concern being how they can actually monitor the import and export of every single carat of diamond. There is proof of their success, though. Since they have started, it is reported that the trade in conflict diamonds has been reduced from 4% to one 1%.
The fight against conflict diamonds is made harder by political factors and countries' non-compliance with various KPCS regulations. It is an ongoing war that is slowly being won one battle at a time. The average person can help the battle by making sure that the diamonds they purchase are certified and their origin known and reporting any suspicions to the KPCS.
For more information on who is involved, what is being done and how to get involved, visit the KPCS.
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