PAC: human rights, human security, sustainable development Canadian and African civil society organizations working together on issues of human rights, human security and sustainable development Partnership Africa Canada
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Program overview

Study Areas
  Sierra Leone
  West Africa
  Congo/Central Africa
  Southern Africa
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Integrative Study on Issues Relating to Corporate Responsibility and the Role of Economic Agendas in Civil Conflict

The project includes an integrative feature that will distill lessons from the other studies as they emerge, and as they relate to the broad issue of economic agendas in civil conflict. It will also examine issues relating to foreign investment in areas of conflict, and the legitimate role of the private sector in protecting investments in areas of deteriorating security. Work undertaken as part of this study area will engage governments, private sector firms and investor regulatory bodies in discussion on awareness-raising activities, policy development and the role of codes of conduct.

Individuals, companies and organizations involved in the issue of conflict diamonds over the past two years have been surprised and pleased by the progress that has been made so far. Many of the major recommendations in The Heart of the Matter have been at least partially addressed, and progress is being made on systems, warranties, regulatory bodies and political action that go far beyond what most critics had hoped for only six months earlier. The reasons for the movement and the speed are perhaps obvious now, although they could not easily have been foreseen:

  • with the publication of The Heart of the Matter, 'conflict diamonds' became a compelling international news story. The first UN Panel of Experts Report on Angola (March 2000) added fuel to it, and the RUF attacks in May 2000 converted the story from human interest to hard copy;

  • the NGOs involved - Global Witness and PAC at first, and others later - were tenacious and media-savvy, but they were prepared to engage the diamond industry in constructive dialogue when the opportunity arose. This transformed a climate of mutual accusation and denial into a more constructive debate;

  • the diamond industry, fearing a damaging consumer campaign, listened to the critics and took action;

  • diamonds are an important resource for many countries, and several governments, led by South Africa, also began to take action before damage could be inflicted on an industry that creates employment and pays significant taxes.

Much, of course, remains to be done. The councils, certification processes and legislation must be created and enforced. This will take both time and constructive dialogue between governments, industry and interested civil society organizations. But time is one thing that the Sierra Leoneans, Angolans and Congolese affected by war do not have. The wars and atrocities continue. There are more Sierra Leonean refugees today, for example, than from any other country in Africa, and half the country's population has been displaced. Schools and clinics in much of the country remain closed, as they have been for years. The RUF continues to hold the diamond areas.

There are some over-arching interim conclusions to the issue of diamonds and the political economy of conflict. The victims - civilians, women, children - are the most poignant and disturbing aspect of the problem. Victims, however, are always symptomatic of something bigger. Secondly, therefore, alleviating symptoms requires work on causes. Diamonds do not cause conflict, but they are its currency, and they have provided the RUF, UNITA, Congolese rebels and a vast array of predators with strong economic motivation and obvious opportunity. A third conclusion - perhaps an observation - is that once the function of, and motivation behind this currency became apparent to the diamond industry, to governments and to campaigners, economic considerations have driven the search for economic solutions.

Economic and commercial motivation among rebel movements is not a new thing. But economic agendas have traditionally been far removed from the work of most humanitarian agencies, whether bilateral, multilateral or nongovernmental. To the extent that solutions to the issue of conflict diamonds are now in train, the lesson here is that the relatively small investments in understanding the issue so far - made by the British, Canadian, Belgian and American governments, the United Nations and a handful of NGOs, have proven to be good value for money.

Security issues are a primary concern in relation to any diamond mining effort, and the failure of security services, both governmental and private, has led, in part, to opportunistic and predatory behaviour. The use of private security firms is not new to the diamond industry but in the past decade it has become fraught with concerns about eroding national sovereignty and the issue of mining concessions being granted in return for the protection of national governments. The issue of private security firms has surfaced repeatedly in Sierra Leone, Angola and Congo, and remains current.

A further issue has to do with the nature, capacity and capitalization of small 'junior' firms that have been drawn into African diamond mining. This issue was explored in PAC's Phase I report on Sierra Leone, but the broader question of attracting reputable, capable mining investors to Africa, especially to post-conflict situations, is one that requires further amplification.

Integrative reports on these issues and others that emerge from the different study areas will be posted in the RESOURCES section of this site. Search Resources using key words such as "diamond" or "civil conflict".

April 2001

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