Nice argument Ritabee! It’s difficult for me to counterpoint because I’ve never taken an economics class in my entire life (English majors, holler) and I can’t say anything definitive about Botswana & Namibia without doing a lot of research into their economies first.
The Kimberley Process needs reform in a bad, bad way. So really my only argument against your post is that it kind of gave the diamond industry an easy-way-out simply because the KP exists, and also because you called the KP a “safe way” to purchase diamonds. It’s not.
I know a little bit about the current situations in Sierra Leone & Zimbabwe, which are also now participants in the Kimberley Process. The KP doesn’t protect against human rights abuses in general but very specifically “only addresses the direct connection between diamond production and funding for rebel groups—it says nothing about governments that may be oppressive or use violence.”
In fact, according to Human Rights Watch, the worst atrocities associated with diamond production currently exist in Zimbabwe, a country that the KP recently chose not to suspend from the trade due to “the technicality in its mandate that defines blood diamonds as those mined by abusive rebel groups, not by abusive governments.”
Another criticism of the Kimberley Process that is worth mentioning: “The Kimberley Process is based on a system of voluntary self-regulation by the diamond industry, which is not seen as a reliable way of enforcing higher standards, and because inherent weaknesses in the system allow for smuggling of blood diamonds into the ‘conflict-free’ trade. Global Witness reports, for example, that, ‘A United Nations Group of Experts on Cote d’Ivoire has recently found that poor controls are allowing significant volumes of blood diamonds to enter the legitimate trade through Ghana, where they are being certified as conflict free.'”
There’s an interesting short documentary available on Hulu (link below) that follows around a few diamond miners in Kono, Sierra Leone; you can see that the laborers certainly aren’t feeling the prosperity of living and working in the diamond industry—in a diamond rich district no less. “Despite the millions (140 million reported in the year before to documentary was shot) of dollars in diamonds that are exported each year, Kono remains desperately poor—lacking even in basic amenities. No running water and no electricity. The miners work for 30cents a day a two cups of rice, unless they find a diamond in which they only get a tiny percentage of its worth.” There is a program in place that aims to teach the miners about the true values (how to evaluate cut, color, carat, shape) so that they can better negotiate what they are paid, which is kind of cool.
Skip to 14:49 to see the diamond stuff…the first half is about the rose export industry. I’ll warn that there’s some graphic images from the war at the very beginning of the segment.
Sources: Vanguard Documentary, Human Rights Watch, Planet Green, Global Witness Report from 8/6/2010