In relation to diamond trading, conflict diamond (also called a converted diamond, blood diamond, hot diamond, or war diamond) refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity, usually in Africa where around two-thirds of the world's diamonds are extracted.
Easily concealed, immensely valuable and largely untraceable, stones from rebel-held mines have raised billions of dollars on world markets to finance insurgencies in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). For years these "conflict diamonds" have allowed rebel leaders to arm and equip their armies in violation of UN weapons and financial sanctions.
In an effort to enlist the support of the diamond industry, the chairman of the Security Council sanctions committee, Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler, traveled to Europe in 1999 for the first of a series of meetings with industry representatives on conflict-linked diamonds. It was an ambitious mission.
Once diamonds are brought to market, their origin is difficult to trace and once polished, they can no longer be identified.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (Kimberley Process or KP) is an international governmental certification scheme that was set up to prevent the trade in diamonds that fund conflict.
Participant countries must enact domestic legislation to implement the scheme, and can only trade rough diamonds with other members. This creates a strong incentive for countries that want to produce, trade or process uncut stones to join. As of 2010, there are 75 governments participating in the KP.
In taking up this agenda item, the General Assembly recognized that conflict diamonds are a crucial factor in prolonging brutal wars in parts of Africa, and underscored that legitimate diamonds contribute to prosperity and development elsewhere on the continent.
The pressure brought to bear by this small but remarkably effective group helped create what many hoped would be a lasting solution -- the Kimberley Process -- a certification scheme that brought together governments, industry and civil society in an effort to guarantee that diamonds would no longer be sourced from conflict zones in order to finance war.
Unfortunately, the Kimberley Process's refusal to address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it hopelessly ineffectual. In effect, it has become an accomplice to diamond laundering -- as well as the corruption and depredations that inevitably follow -- by offering the illusion of institutional cover to endemic and escalating corruption.
The UN recently reported $23 million in blood diamonds from the Ivory Coast are being smuggled into international diamond markets. Diamonds have fuelled the conflict in the Congo (DRC), the bloodiest war since WWII; armed violence and brutal human rights abuses continue over control of diamonds mines in eastern Congo.
The United Nations (UN) defines conflict diamonds as "...diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council." This narrow definition does not include state sanctioned violence, local brutality in diamond mining, or any other human rights abuses.
Blood diamonds captured the world's attention during the extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone in the late1990s, where rebels carried out systematic amputations of limbs during an eight-year brutal campaign.