I had the privilege to represent ZIMCODD at the preparations of the launch of the Swedwatch report in collaboration with Afrikagrupperna on the circumstances of the children in diamond mining in the DRC titled; A Childhood lost. After reading the report I was overwhelmed by the striking similarities in human rights challenges being faced by communities in my country and in Africa as a whole. Our governments and their accomplices in the global diamond industry have let us down; indeed they have plundered our livelihoods with impunity.
The human rights violations are appalling, the abdication of duties by the players in the diamond trade industry only means communities have to build their own alliances. In order to challenge the status quo and demand that those who are involved in the diamond industry – both in the downstream and upstream – be held accountable and play their part to ensure that human rights are respected in the diamond industry.
From the report it is clear that we cannot only rely on the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme as the only human rights “sustainability” initiative in the diamonds industry, there is need to consider other international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Due Diligence policies. More so – take into account the community voices in the global discourses and the global players must be accountable to these voices.
The report is rich with evidence for advocacy targeting our national governments in Africa, the global players in the industry including the consumers in the diamond trade industry. There is a great opportunity for solidarity from the consumers, especially in Sweden. They could exercise their consumer rights. This by seeking to know where the diamonds that made “that ring, that necklace” came from. Consumers can play a big role in ensuring that companies are accountable and to not fern human rights violations through buying diamonds that cannot be traced back to their origin.
At the moment, it is business as usual, jewellery companies are sourcing their diamonds and making the sparkling diamonds without knowledge of where they are coming from- blame it on the lack of a comprehensive global accountability framework! When I visited a few jewellery shops and did a snap survey on their knowledge about the diamonds they are trading I was depressed at the lack of knowledge but all the same I was also excited by the imagination of having these companies and their consumers in our corner and start calling for social accountability in the much opaque diamond industry.
The Swedwatch report gives me hope, in that I can visualise the responsibilities of all the global diamond industry to promote and protect human rights all over Africa in general and in Zimbabwe in particular. This report can be a useful community tool to make a contribution to the call for operations that are responsible and respect human rights.
My community has been clear on the “investor that they want” and it is the duty of the investor at whatever level to therefore play their part and ensure that those community voices are taken account of in all decisions and deals made in the diamond market. Communities have focused more on the downstream advocacy.
This report offers insights in amusing upstream advocacy work that communities could do through creating linkages at the global level. These linkages are apparent in engaging with the jewellery companies, and the consumers of the diamond products- these engagements would focus on a wide array of issues from holding our national governments accountable and also address the limitations of the global frameworks such as those presented by the Kimberly Process which has lost touch with the realities of the diamond trade industry today!
The Report gives very insightful recommendations that communities in Zimbabwe can breakdown to their level and use for engagement. I am hopeful that the long history between Zimbabwe and Sweden is a starting point for continued solidarity and the people of Sweden as consumers should start to ask the hard questions to address the historical and current human rights violations in the diamond trade industry.