Conflict Diamonds

The following article was published in AmNewYork on March 21, 2007. The article is written by Jennifer Redfearn.

“Multiple facets to blood diamonds issue
By Jennifer Redfearn

Special to amNewYork

March 21, 2007

Diamonds are no longer every girl’s best friend, but they are a complicated issue. The recent Hollywood blockbuster “Blood Diamond” made millions of people aware that these symbols of everlasting love also help fuel brutal civil wars and human-rights abuses in Africa.

Yet an absolute ban on the gems isn’t the answer, according to Martin Rapaport, publisher of the Rapaport Diamond Report, an industry publication. He said that any dip in sales would harm the thousands of Africans who depend on the legal trade for their livelihood.

“This isn’t about diamonds,” he said during a talk at Baruch College Tuesday. “It’s about human beings. You’re dealing with a world in which people can’t keep their kids alive and then you talk about screwing with 68 % of their income. Consumers are responsible for what they buy, but they’re also responsible for what they don’t buy.”

In Sierra Leone, $127 million dollars worth of diamonds are exported every year, representing well over half of that country’s trade goods, Rapaport said.

In addition to funding conflicts in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the international sale of diamonds sustained the recent 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone. During the war, the rebels hacked off their opponent’s limbs and forced thousands of children to become soldiers.

In response to these human rights abuses and pressure from the nonprofit organization Global Witness, the U.N. backed a 2003 certification process that tracks the origin of diamonds so only stones from conflict-free zones enter the market. The regulations control the sale of diamonds, preventing rebel groups from using them to fund wars.

The regulation of diamond sales isn’t 100% effective, though, as illegal trafficking still occurs. Two men were arrested in Tucson, Arizona in February with more than 11,000 carats

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