Blood diamonds, also referred to as “conflict diamonds”, are diamonds mined in a war zone and illegally traded to finance further military actions of rebel forces, particularly in central and western Africa, where around two-thirds of the world's diamond supply are extracted.
Blood diamonds are often a product of the forced labour of men, women and children. They also become the loot of rebels plundering the mines of legitimate producers. It is these diamonds that funded brutal conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo – the countries where people were terrorised, mutilated and killed by groups who had taken control over the local diamond trade. Even though wars in those areas have come to an end or at least decreased in intensity, conflict diamonds from Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire are still reaching the global trade, labelled as conflict-free diamonds.
In 2000, South African countries launched a joint campaign to track the origins of all the rough diamonds found in Africa in order to put a stop to the blood diamond trade in the conflict areas. This eventually led to the establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), an international campaign to block the flow of conflict diamonds into the global diamond trade.
The Kimberley Process was designed to make sure that all rough diamonds, entering a participant country, are produced through legal mining and sales activities. In order to accomplish this, all rough diamonds exported from conflict-ridden countries are to be accompanied by the KPCS certificates, stating that the diamonds were produced and sold through legitimate channels. However, since the KPCS implies a close cooperation of dozens of governments and independent agencies, there can't be a 100% guarantee to consumers that the diamonds they buy did not contribute to pointless bloodshed and human rights abuse. With a number of countries still not committed to the programme, the KPCS will take time to achieve its goals, but what's already been accomplished is significant.
In the 90s the flow of conflict diamonds into the world market accounted for over 4%, today it's been reduced to considerably less than 1%. Retail consumers, buying cut diamonds, are encouraged to challenge retailers to provide a documented proof that their diamonds originated from a conflict-free area.