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Global Witness was amongst the first organisations to bring the world’s attention to the problem of conflict diamonds, also known as ‘blood diamonds’. Global Witness’ ground breaking report, A Rough Trade, released in 1998, exposed the role of diamonds in funding the civil war in Angola. This thrust the secretive practices of the global diamond industry into the spotlight for the first time. Sixteen years on, the problem of conflict diamonds persists. Research carried out by Global Witness in Zimbabwe reveals that off-budget revenues from diamond mining companies operating in the Marange area have funded abusive security forces loyal to the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Global Witness is working with companies, governments and civil society organisations to address concerns about responsible sourcing in the diamond and precious stones sectors. Companies buying or trading rough and polished diamonds should take steps – known as due diligence – to find out whether their purchases have funded conflict or human rights abuses at any point in the supply chain.


Conflict diamonds are diamonds that are used to fuel violent conflict and human rights abuses. In addition to Angola, diamonds have funded brutal wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people. Diamonds have also been used by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda to finance their activities and for money-laundering purposes. Growing international pressure from Global Witness and other organisations played a crucial role in forcing governments and the diamond industry to take action to eliminate conflict diamonds from the international trade.

In 2003, following several years of campaigning, and negotiations between diamond producing and trading countries, industry and civil society, the international diamond certification scheme known as the Kimberley Process (KP) was established. However problems with the scheme, such as a narrow definition of conflict and failure to address major issues such as violence in Zimbabwe’s Marange area, undermined the Kimberley Process’ credibility and effectiveness. Eleven years on, and despite intensive efforts by a coalition of NGOs including Global Witness, the scheme’s major flaws and loopholes have not been addressed and many of the scheme’s member governments show little interest in reform. On 5th December 2011 Global Witness announced its departure from the Kimberley Process. Read a message about why Global Witness decided to leave the Kimberley Process from Founding Director Charmian Gooch.

Weak industry self-regulation all along the diamond pipeline means that diamonds from Marange which are associated with human rights abuses, are contaminating global markets. Removal of EU sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation in September 2013 has facilitated increased circulation of Marange diamonds. Although US sanctions remain in place, concerns persist that Marange diamonds may be entering US markets via secondary countries.
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