Rapaport Magazine
Sierra Leone

Global Witness’ Fatal Error

By Martin Rapaport
RAPAPORT... Right now, there is no real way of ensuring 100 percent that the diamond in your engagement ring is conflict free, but consumers can change that by taking a stand this holiday season,” says Charmian Gooch of Global Witness (GW).

GW makes a fatal error when it promotes the idea that consumers can pressure the diamond industry to eradicate conflict diamonds. Consumers and the diamond trade have only one power — to decide not to buy certain diamonds. They can’t fix Africa, only boycott it.

Consumer pressure on the trade will not eradicate conflict diamonds. It will make matters worse as it drives a wedge into the heart of Africa. Legitimate firms extensively monitor already legitimate diamonds and do not care about conflict diamonds and the problems of Africa — after all, their audited diamonds are “GW-monitored certified kosher,” so why worry about the bad stuff?

As the “good” firms distance themselves from artisanal diamonds due to high reputational risk, the bad guys will take over. The trade in conflict and illicit diamonds will flourish as we await the next war. Isolating legitimate firms from artisanal diggers is evil and the root cause of the diamond wars.

Gooch’s solution is all about making rich consumers feel good and not at all about helping the artisanal diggers of Africa or stopping the trade in conflict diamonds. Auditing will ensure the consumer that her diamond is 100 percent conflict free, but it won’t do anything for Africa.

It’s high time that Gooch and GW figured out that the solution to the problems of Africa lay in Africa, not Hollywood or U.S. retail jewelry stores.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2007. To subscribe click here.

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