The folks over at the Kimberly Process certification scheme, the main body responsible for certifying diamonds as “conflict-free”, have threatened to suspend Zimbabwe’s participation in the program for six months. It appears Zimbabwe is still seeing a great deal of human rights abuses, exploitation, and slavery in the diamond industry.
The Kimberley Process (KP) is a coalition of governments, diamond industry representatives, and civil society stakeholders, which was created to stem the flow of conflict diamonds from countries in Africa to global markets. Rough diamonds have been used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments, and the diamond industry has become notorious for exploitation and slavery, especially of children. The trade conflict diamonds has fuelled devastating conflicts in countries such as Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone and resulted in the abuse of thousands of workers and children. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) imposes extensive requirements on participating members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’.
Zimbabwe’s eastern diamond fields are the areas currently being questioned by the KP. Human Rights Watch has accused the military of killing a number of diamond diggers in the area and using the gems recovered from the dead diggers to line their own pockets. Zimbabwe is also accused of not having stringent enough regulations in place to prevent abuse in the diamond industry. A KP inspector recently recommended that Zimbabwe be barred from importing or exporting rough diamonds within the Process for at least six months “until such time as a KP team determines that minimum standards have been met.” Such a ban would be a huge blow to the diamond industry in that country, but might also allow KP members to put the additional regulations in place to help prevent exploitation in the industry.
It’s comforting to know the folks at KP are actively monitoring all of their members, and that they aren’t hesitating to call one out for failing to live up to the rigorous standards KP insists on. But it’s still important to know where the diamonds you buy have come from and how or if they are certified. You can find a wide selection of Fair Trade diamond and gold jewelry at Brilliant Earth’s website.
Photo credit: swamibu