Conflict Diamonds and Conflict Minerals

Conflict diamonds are defined by the United Nations as “rough diamonds used by rebel movement to fight legitimate governments” (Thomas, 2012, ^1). They received notoriety as a result of the 2006 film Blood Diamond. Most commonly associated with the conflict in Sierra Leone, the purchases of these diamonds by consumers in the Western world helped to fuel the conflict there. To help regulate the trade, and to assure that these purchases were not financing the type of atrocities described in this chapter, the Kimberley Process was developed. This agreement between the United Nations, the European Union, 74 national governments, the World Diamond Council, and a number of NGOs created a certification to consumers that their purchases did not meet the definition of a conflict diamond (Armstrong, 2011).

However, it has not been as successful as hoped. It has largely been self-policing and has not evolved to address the use of diamonds to fund other human rights abuses, including those by sitting governments. While the war in Sierra Leone has now ended, there continue to be concerns around the world about continuing human rights abuses funded by these sales.

In 2011, Global Witness, a leading NGO involved in the Kimberley Process, pulled out after purchases of diamonds were authorized from an area in Zimbabwe where numerous human rights violations were committed by the Zimbabwean army, including the murder of 200 miners (Global Witness, 2011). In 2012, there was an attempt to expand the definition to “rough diamond used to finance armed conflict or 'other situations’ relating to violence affecting diamond-mining areas”; however, this was not successful (Thomas, 2012, ^1).

More recently, the role of “conflict minerals” coming out of Democratic Republic of the Congo has been highlighted. The minerals tungsten, tin, and coltan are needed for the manufacture of such items as laptops and cell phones. However, it has been found that the profits from these purchases were funding armed groups, thus fueling the conflict in Democratic Republic of the Congo as was seen in Sierra Leone (Global Witness, n.d.). Both the rebel groups and the militias have carried out mass atrocities against civilians for control of areas with minerals (Zongwe, 2012). To attempt to address this, laws have been passed by the European Union Parliament, Australia, and the United States, requiring disclosure of the supply chain of these minerals (KPMG, 2012).

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