“Conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” are names given to diamonds mined in war zones by rebel and militia forces, who sell them largely to fund weapon purchases and military operations. The term refers to African nations, which are the world’s main diamond suppliers.
The non-governmental organization Global Witness was one of the first human rights groups to link diamonds to armed conflicts in a report published in 1998. The same year saw the United Nations Security Council ratify Resolution 1173 and impose sanctions on the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The resolution also addressed the role of diamonds in funding armed conflicts.
In December 2000, the UN General Assembly unanimously ratified a resolution recognizing that while the legal diamond trade helps some African nations to thrive, the illegal trade of conflict diamonds plays a significant role in funding wars in other parts of the continent.
Angola and Sierra Leone, where civil wars were ongoing at the time, were singled out as countries in which rebels use conflict diamonds to fund their activities. Other nations linked to the conflict diamond trade over the years include Liberia, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe.
Conflict diamonds garnered international attention with the 2006 release of the film “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio portrayed a mercenary looking for a rare pink diamond in the rebel-controlled territories of Sierra Leone.
In 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was formed as an international forum of governments, non governmental groups and the diamond industry, with aim of eliminating the trade in conflict diamonds.
The Process was initiated in Kimberley, South Africa, with South Africa, Botswana and Namibia desiring to protect their legitimate diamond trade. The KPCS requires that every shipment of rough diamonds be certified as containing “conflict-free” diamonds.