Diamonds: Conflict to Consensus

Rebel armies in Africa sold blood diamonds to supply weapons to Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rough diamond global trade regulation was thought to have the power to curtail the ‘diamond wars’. Significantly contributing to peace and consequently a decrease in Africa’s underground diamond economy, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was the culmination of three years of governmental, non-governmental and industry discussions.

By 2004, it become obvious that regulation alone wouldn’t improve either economic or developmental problems. For 75 years life hadn’t changed much for approximately 1.3 million artisanal diamond miners in Africa, including many children.

In 2005, a development initiative by the name of Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) was created in the hope of paralleling the Kimberley Process, co-hosted by Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness who met with De Beers in London. After four years in suspended opposition, attempting to bring the diamond industry, civil society and governments together around a complex agenda was a challenging accomplishment, however the DDI consequentially emerged, learning respect and understanding from both perspectives, agreeing on the necessity for long-term, sustainable peace.

In 2006 however, the DDI was incorporated as a nonprofit charitable organization, receiving grants from Sweden, the Tiffany Foundation, the Canadian government and several diamond industry leaders. In March, Dorothee Gizenga was appointed DDI’s first executive director, establishing executive offices in Ottawa in 2008.

To date, the DDI has established a comprehensive set of ‘Standards & Guidelines’ for artisanal diamonds produced in Sierra Leone with a second set of guidelines for the Congo nearing completion, including the termination of child miners. Responsible for Web sites with detailed information on international artisanal mining in both English and French, the DDI has been supported by both De Beers and the JCK Industry Fund, which is presently in the process of establishing global standards for ‘development diamonds.’ With a new perspective as to how artisanally produced diamonds, perhaps 15% of diamond supply, might contribute to both national and community development, the DDI today is focusing on the organizational, social, environmental and economic problems that diamonds present.

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