More than a million African artisanal diamond diggers and their families live and work in absolute poverty, outside the formal economy, in countries struggling to recover from the ravages of war.
The Diamond Development Initiative International (DDII) is a unique effort to address their problems, bringing NGOs, governments and the private sector together in a common effort that aims to ensure that diamonds are an engine for development. We envision “development diamonds”, as diamonds that are produced responsibly, safely, with respect of human and communities’ rights, in conflict-free zones, with beneficiation to communities and payment of fair prices to miners.
The problem of “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” is now well known. Rebel groups in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Angola and elsewhere took control of alluvial diamond mining areas in the 1990s, enabling them to pursue their brutal wars for many years.
Conflict diamonds were a product of the vast alluvial diamond areas in Africa where diamonds are mined by artisans – diggers. Artisanal diamond mining is dirty work, sometimes dangerous, and the areas where this mining takes place is a breeding ground for insecurity resulting from poverty, underdevelopment and overcrowding. There are up to 120,000 diggers in Sierra Leone, 800,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and many tens of thousands in Angola, Liberia Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela and elsewhere.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and maimed over years of conflict. The Kimberley Process, developed over the past eight years, has created a legally binding global certification system for rough diamonds. The KPCS now involves more than 75 countries and controls the movement of all rough diamonds from mine to market, throughout the world. It is a unique system that goes beyond governments, involving the private sector and civil society organizations in a system that has continued to improve since its inception in 2003.
The Kimberley Process has helped to consolidate the peace in several African countries, but it is a regulatory system; it is not a tool for development. In the rush to congratulation, there is a danger that some of those who suffered most in the diamond wars – the diggers, and their communities – will be forgotten.
The DDII is an important complement to the Kimberley Process and to its work with alluvial producer countries. We aim, through education, policy dialogue and projects working directly with artisanal diamond miners and their communities, to demonstrate that diamonds can be an asset for growth in countries where they have been at the forefront of conflict and have not reduced poverty; that they can be a catalyst for individual and national development.