Conflict Diamonds Today

Some in the diamond industry like to say that conflict diamonds never represented more than four percent of the world's total, and that today they represent a fraction of one percent. However, in the mid to late 1990s, conflict diamonds represented as much as 15 percent of the world's total—backed up by the well documented cases of diamonds haemorrhaging out of Angola, the DRC and Sierra Leone.

While the KP has undoubtedly lowered the flow of conflict diamonds, accurately quantifying the current levels of illicit diamonds in the supply chain is difficult. The reason is as much historical, as definitional.

One the one hand, the diamond fuelled wars in Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone have ended. The political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is fragile, and while diamonds may be fuelling some of the instability, there are no major pockets of traditionally defined conflict diamonds. The only recent sources of such conflict diamonds have been in Central African Republic and northern Côte d'Ivoire, which was under rebel control until the 2011 elections.

The greater challenge in assessing current illicit flows is definitional. Traditionally the KP has defined conflict diamonds as only those that finance conflict waged by rebel groups against governments. The KP, however, has not accounted for the way in which conflict and illegality changes over time.

In recent years the worst perpetrators of violence in diamond producing areas are not rebels but state actors. The worst examples of this are Zimbabwe and Angola, where security forces control contested mining areas and have been documented to routinely and systematically abuse artisanal miners and local communities.

PAC has long called for a newer and broader definition of conflict diamonds that reflects the role state actors play in human rights abuses in diamond zones. In our mind, all human rights abuses in diamond producing zones are abhorrent, irrespective of whether the perpetrator is a rebel or government soldier. To this end, PAC is currently working with governments and the World Diamond Council to have a more comprehensive definition adopted by the KP that takes into consideration such modern realities.