One of my customers recently asked me about charities involved with supporting diamond miners as he had decided to donate the same amount to a charity that he would be spending on the diamond for his fiancee's engagement ring. It made me suddenly realise that I was woefully ignorant of who's out there and what it is they're doing to help. I know about organisations involved with gold mining but almost nothing about diamonds - and I'm supposed to be the ethical expert in the company! As a result I decided to do a bit of research, which I'll share with you here.
My initial google search didn't help as much as I thought it would, but it did bring up one very well known organisation which is working in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Oxfam. This multi-national charity is supporting people who have been displaced by the conflict in this war-torn country, much of which has been fuelled by illegal trading in diamonds and therefore directly affects the miners there. Although Oxfam is not supporting diamond miners specifically they are doing extraordinary work in providing shelter, schooling for children and helping to prevent malnutrition for thousands of people, as well as helping to prevent further violence.
I then remembered about the work of another charity called Survival International which I had heard about in relation to the Bushmen of the Kalahari in Botswana. This charity is the only organisation working with tribal peoples, many of whom have been displaced from their homeland in the name of 'economic growth'. Their work was highlighted particularly when they were working with the Bushmen who had been evicted from their home when the government found diamonds there in the 1980s. Although in 2006 the Bushmen won the right to return to their land the government have made it almost impossible to do so and they have been living in resettlement camps outside the reserve ever since. Survival International is working with the Bushmen to campaign for their return to their ancestral home so their unique way of life is not destroyed.
Vukani-Ubuntu was recently featured in an article in The Jeweller magazine (the magazine of the National Association of Goldsmiths). Vukani-Ubuntu is based on the African principle of Ubuntu, which emphasises that the individual is part of a community and interacts through that community, not independently of it. The charity works in South Africa, training people from disadvantaged communities to become jewellers, providing jobs and training and bringing a much needed income to the area. Where possible the jewellers are working with diamonds (from South Africa) as well as precious metals. What started out 10 years ago as a single project has now expanded to help 12 communities in 5 provinces and has become a business model for other community development projects elsewhere.
Another amazing organisation (and one I receive regular email updates from) is Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) who are a charity which focuses on two main themes - Peace and Human Security and Sustainable Development. Their main programme deals with 'natural resource extraction and human security'. In 2000, PAC helped identify the problem of conflict diamonds and actively participated in the creation of the Kimberley Process. They are still heavily involved in all aspects of work with the Kimberley Process, including helping to coordinate the participation of communities involved with diamond mining. At the same time, PAC is working with civil society organizations, governments and other stakeholders in several African countries to identify ways of helping artisanal diamond miners and their communities enjoy better and more sustainable livelihoods.
The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) has been making big waves in the jewellery industry with their involvement in the development of Fairtrade / Fairmined standards alongside Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) (mentioned in my previous blog ARM and FLO have worked long and hard to come up with standards that protect communities involved in Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) improving social, environmental and labour practices; ensuring people are treated and paid fairly for the work they do as well as improving environmental impact that small scale mining can have. ARM is working primarily with people involved in mining for precious metals in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, but they are also working on standards for gemstone mining too.
We posted a query about diamond mining charities on a jewellery industry chat room and the response that came back to us more than any of the above was The Diamond Development Initiative International. Based in Ontario, Canada, the DDII supports artisanal (small scale) diamond diggers and their families all over the world, and is hoping to bring 'development diamonds' to the jewellery industry - 'diamonds that are produced responsibly, safely, with respect of human and communities' rights, in conflict-free zones, with beneficiation to communities and payment of fair prices to miners’. It is comp-ementary to the Kimberley Process, and is aiming to prove that where diamonds have been a catalyst for war and conflict they can also be used to promote, peace, stability and development. It is the most extraordinary project, and one which I will be following with interest.