University Student Takes Issue with World Diamond Council Campaign

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This opinion article was published in Northern Michigan University’s student newspaper and is brought to our Rapaport readers through Dialog Newsedge. You may post a comment about this story by clicking ‘Send Feeback’ at the foot of this article.

By Megan Keller, The North Wind (Northern Michigan U.)

MARQUETTE, Michigan: Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but the imagery Marilyn Monroe perpetrated in the 1950s is far removed from the real-life drama of diamond mining.

A new campaign was launched September 6 by the World Diamond Council as a sort of damage control in anticipation of the upcoming movie Blood Diamond. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the film depicts a mercenary imprisoned for smuggling in Sierra Leone in the mid-1990s. The WDC has made great strides since then in the suppression of “conflict” diamonds.

Primarily based upon the Internet and in print, the campaign was triggered by jewelers worried the movie would tarnish the reputation of diamonds currently manufactured, negatively affecting their sales.

Students may not know it, but there are many references to conflict diamonds in pop culture. The movie “Lord of War” involves the trade of illegal diamonds for arms. The popular Kanye West music video, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” depicts blood running down a woman’s hand as she puts on a diamond ring.

Conflict (or “blood”) diamonds have long been a problem for many African countries, as well as for the United Nations. Most conflict diamonds came from Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries. Unfortunately, they are commonly linked with human rights abuses and often traded illegally to fund conflict in war-torn areas, according to Reuters. While the wars in these countries are ebbing, other conflicts are arising in other African nations. These wars and the problems they cause are largely ignored in the United States.

In 1995, conflict diamonds accounted for about 4 percent of global diamond sales, according to Reuters; since a certification system was established in 2003, that number has dropped to 1 percent.

Nonetheless, 1 percent of global diamond sales translates into a great deal of human suffering and illegal trade. Accordingly, the UN has imposed sanctions against countries that continue to produce illegal diamonds: The Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo,) Liberia, and the Ivory Coast.

One might think conflict diamonds might be easy to track since they now represent only 1 percent, but that is not the case. Diamonds that have been brought to market have murky origins at best, and once they are polished, they are unidentifiable, according to the UN.

Despite the claims of Eli Izhakoff, the chairman of the WDC, that the diamond industry had “taken care to take care of this problem,” Amnesty International stated that conflict diamonds are still reaching the international market.

Izhakoff’s statement on this issue is rather vague. Obviously, conflict diamonds continue to exist, but to say, “these things are something that happened in the past and since then, the industry [and] governments…have taken care…of this problem” is incorrect.

In accordance with Americans’ apathy in regards to where their diamonds really come from, 11 percent of U.S. stores have a policy on conflict diamonds, while 67 percent declined to discuss whether they even had such a system, according to the Amnesty USA website. With statistics like that, how can the problem really be taken care of?

While not many Americans-and hardly any college students-are able to buy diamonds more than once, this is an issue that cannot stay hidden in the shadows.

Diamonds are good for the economies of Africa, when they are traded legally. According to the website the WDC launched,, revenue from the diamonds helps towards HIV/AIDS education and treatment. Although the World Diamond Council has made great strides in prohibiting conflict diamonds, it still has a long way to go. Creating a website that informs the public about conflict diamonds, as well as the benefits of legal diamond trade, will educate the public and hopefully the African communities involved.

Copyright © 2006 U-Wire

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