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African countries join their efforts to guarantee conflict free and certified diamonds

  • Regional Certification Mechanism
  • Pressure on the industry
  • Certified diamonds and raw materials

Diamonds are called ‘blood diamonds’ when violence has been used or people have died during the mining of the stones. These blood diamonds have played a significant role during numerous conflicts in the west and southern countries of the African continent. 

 

Regional Certification Mechanism

Under international pressure, a group of African countries has developed a certification process that makes it easier for companies to ban conflict diamonds from their production. More and more mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being certified as ‘conflict free’. During the last counting and control in August 2015, 140 of the 180 mines in Congo were certified.

The list with validated conflict free mines is a part of a certification framework, known as the Regional Certification Mechanism. This organisation was developed by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), an intergovernmental organisation of 12 African countries, founded in 2011. The framework consists of various steps and a system of checkpoints. “For the first time in the history of Congo, there is a thorough, multi-stakeholder process to asses if rebel groups and the government exploit the mines”, says Sasha Lezhnev, associate director of the Enough Project, an advocacy group striving towards ending war crimes in Africa. “This is an important step for a country that has been ravaged for decennia by conflict and war.”

 Pressure on the industry

In the last couple of years, international pressure on the companies has intensified. An article in the 2010 American Dodd-Frank financial reform law stipulates, for example, that listed American companies have to disclose whether or not they use minerals originating from Central Africa and which measures they have taken to ascertain the source of the minerals.

Verification process

The assessment of Congo’s mines was executed by groups composed from members of the United Nations, business men and the Congolese authorities. USAID and the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources financed the operation.

The certification of several hundred mines may not seem like much, given there are about a thousand mines in total, but according to Lezhnev, the number of mines is less important than the volumes of minerals that is verified. “Some mines employ only 5 to 10 mineworkers, whereas others employ many thousand.” The so-called “validation missions” are aimed at high-volume areas such as Rubaya in North Kivu, a province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo that has served as the stage for some of the most bitter fights between rebel groups, militias and government troops.

The teams review the mines on a yearly basis, and follow a standard model that evaluates the working conditions, the conflict situation and the development of the community. For example, neither armed forces nor the Congolese army are allowed to be present in the mines and neither children nor pregnant women should be employed. If a mine passes the review, it receives a green label. This information is subsequently published on the ICGLR website.

The certification process is a good start, but it certainly doesn’t offer a final solution. According to Lezhnev, making the trade in minerals and raw materials conflict free completely requires more support from the Congolese authorities, the US and the European Union.

Read the following articles for more information on conflict free and certified diamonds: