In the late 1990s, the world became aware that rough diamonds from some African countries were being traded in order to fund military conflict by rebel movements. These diamonds became known as “blood” or “conflict” diamonds.
In order to combat this, a joint initiative was launched in 2000 by the international diamond industry, governments and NGOs to ensure that diamonds were not used to fund such activities.
This led to a meeting of Southern African diamond-producing states in Kimberley, Northern Cape, in May.
A culminating ministerial meeting followed during September in Pretoria, from which the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) originated.
The KPCS is a tightly controlled system to ensure that diamonds have been purchased from legitimate sources and comply with specific requirements. By 2009, 75 countries had adopted this UN-mandate scheme.
The effectiveness of the process has been brought into question by organizations such as Global Witness, which pulled out of the scheme on 5 December 2011, claiming it has failed in its purpose and does not provide markets with assurance that the diamonds are not conflict diamonds. Observers point to countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and Sierra Leone as being origins of conflict diamonds with a supply distribution not yet solved ethically according to the international treaties.
In 2013, Avi Paz, the President of the World Diamond Council, praised the Kimberly Process for responding to new forms of conflict diamonds. "The World Diamond Council supports the process of reform that is taking place within the Kimberly Process," said Paz. He added that the council would like to see the Kimberly Process broadened so that it impacts on other forms of conflict and not just war. "This includes the systematic acts of violence against communities that are directly associated with diamonds, although not necessary in the context of civil war," he said.
However, Shamiso Mtisi, a representative of the civil society coalition at the KPCS, described the pace of reform as very slow. Mtisi wants the KPCS to start taking stern measures against countries where human rights abuses and illicit sale of diamonds are taking place. "It is high time KP (Kimberly Process) makes mandatory the control and licensing of diamond mines, offers effective security and gives licenses to artisanal miners if needed," he said. Mtisi also called for the registering of all diamond buyers and sellers, exporters, agents and courier companies. "We need to ensure the routing of cash purchases through official banking channels is supported by verified documentation," he added.
Mtisi criticized the organization for certifying Zimbabwe's compliance with its diamond sale benchmarks while ignoring the lack of transparency and accountability in the extraction and sale of diamonds in Zimbabwe.
Tracking money to its source in order to control and monitor the distribution of rough diamonds is a strategy observed in many areas of conflict where ethics and human rights have been ignored. Revolting oneself against blood diamonds is understandable for ethical, cultural reasons. But rejecting diamonds overall is, however, non-effective and costly. Clients refusing to purchase diamonds to the favor of other goods on the basis that blood diamonds exist is a phenomenon which challenges unnecessarily the economical balance of an industry supporting the economy of major companies and countries worldwide. Not to mention that the exploitation of diamonds is a celebration of nature’s beauty, by which man adds his craftsmanship to a stone for designers to create eternal pieces of art celebrating important chapters in our lives. Cleaning the industry at all levels of the supply chain is important and taken into action… so long diamonds can continue to be sold and celebrated worldwide.