Most of us have heard that high-value mineral resources have the potential to make violent conflict worse. Illegally-mined diamonds were traded for weapons during several African civil wars in the 1990s, and conflict diamonds became a focal point of debate. They spawned movies like ‘Blood Diamond’, raising public awareness of the links between mining and war, and spurred the creation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2002, an initiative from governments, human rights groups and the diamond industry to attempt to ban conflict diamonds. The KP functions a bit like a passport for the world’s rough diamonds, with KP certificates accompanying diamond shipments as they go from country to country.
In response, global smugglers and conflict diamond racketeers have found new ways to circumvent KP regulations. The trade is again booming, as up to 25% of today’s diamonds may be illegal – and nobody can tell which is which. This PRIO project explores these networks, focusing on the Indian city of Surat – where over 90% of today’s mined diamonds go to be polished. In Surat, legal and smuggled stones get mixed together at the polishing houses that employ some 500,000 workers. Increasingly replacing Tel Aviv, Antwerp, and other former diamond trading hotspots, the secretive and tight-knit system in Surat is an ideal environment for those wishing to launder illegal merchandise.
But the Kimberley Process has been slow to respond to these changing dynamics, leading to frustrations amongst some members. In 2012, co-founder Global Witness dropped out of the KP altogether, believing it to today be little more than a smokescreen for governments to offer the illusion of action. While KP does have several systemic weaknesses, opportunities to strengthen the effort to stop the trade exist, both within the KP framework and in parallel to it.
The PRIO project on Conflict Diamond Chain Tracing conducts research on several of these key aspects, including mine-to-market tracing, Indian production and customs networks, and smuggling houses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (accounting for 30% of current production). By creating more transparent information on the routes that global diamonds take, customers, governments, and the diamond industry may all have the opportunity to take more concrete and informed measures to reduce the transport and sale of conflict diamonds. Additional information on the conflict diamond trade – from industry to advocacy – is provided in the links below.
For Further Reading:
Government sites and documents:
Industry and Analysis sites:
Information in Norwegian: