Blood diamonds fuel abuses

Three years after the KP certification scheme illicit stones still enter markets
Blood diamonds fuel abuses

A deadly trade in blood diamonds persists three years after African governments and the diamond industry launched an initiative to prevent illicit gem sales from fueling African wars, according to reports by Reuters. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, set up in January 2003 to provide guarantees that participating nations were not dealing in diamonds financing local conflicts, has helped stem the flow of blood diamonds but millions of dollars in illicit stones are still entering the world market the report states.
"The Kimberly Process has definitely improved the situation but there are serious loopholes," said Corinna Gilfillan, a spokeswoman for Global Witness, a London-based advocacy organization that investigates the links between natural resource exploitation and conflicts. "There is still a problem of diamonds fueling human rights abuses."

Under the scheme, participants export rough diamonds, diamonds that are straight from the ground and not yet cut, issue a certificate stating the stones are conflict-free. To do that, participants or countries have to track the diamonds back to a mine or point of importation. Importing countries agree not to accept rough diamonds that have not been certified. Gilfillan said African governments may have laws on paper to prevent the mining and sale of blood diamonds but they do not have adequate means of enforcement. And the diamond industry is not delivering on self-regulation, she said. At the height of the wars funded by blood diamonds in the early 1990s, including those in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, 4 percent to 14 percent of the diamonds entering the world market were sourced to African countries mired in internal wars, said Tom Zoellner, author of "The Heartless Stone," a new book on blood diamonds.

Though that flow has slowed, 2% to 3% of the current $11.7 billion global trade in rough diamonds is still sourced to countries not technically at war but whose citizens live under similarly harsh and brutal conditions, Zoellner estimated. One of the biggest problem areas is Ivory Coast, according to Gilfillan. A November report by a U.N. panel of experts found illegal diamond revenue was an important source of income for rebels in the north of the country. It was "very likely" these diamonds were entering the certified trade by being sold by dealers in other countries participating in the Kimberly scheme, the watchdog group said.

The U.N. Security Council imposed an embargo on Ivory Coast diamond exports last December. But such embargoes are in place in a number of African countries and typically are poorly enforced, U.N. experts say. Given Africas history of civil and national strife, both Gilfillan and Zoellner agreed the problem was not going away anytime soon. "We simply dont know where the next diamond-related conflict might be fomented, and as it stands now, the controls on blood diamonds are lax and in need of tightening," said Zoellner. "This problem is not resolved."

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