On the last day of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) 30th August 2019 in Yokohama, Diamonds for Peace (DFP) held an official side event called “Symposium on the Artisanal Diamond Mining in West Africa”. The audience at the event was filled with Japanese and African government officials, officers from international organizations, private company personnel, and jewelers, etc.
The symposium started with presentations concerning Sierra Leone, presented by Wusu Conteh, an international student from Sierra Leone who is in a Master’s program at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS). Next, Prof. Kenji Isezaki from TUFS presented his own experiences before and after the civil war in the early 2000s in Sierra Leone, and Chie Murakami, DFP’s Director General, explained the current status of the artisanal diamond mining in West Africa. All participants watched the documentary short movie “Voices from the Mine” produced by Bath University, which illustrates the exploitative environment for the artisanal miners and diggers in Sierra Leone.
During the second half of the symposium, led by the moderator Prof. Takeshi Ito from Osaka University, participants discussed how to improve the artisanal diamond sector. There are so many issues that need to be addressed in the artisanal diamond mining industry such as human rights violations, labor issues, environmental destruction, etc. Suggestions for how to address these issues included the improvement of education for diggers and children, strengthening of government regulations to reduce corruption, the establishment of means of alternative livelihoods, increase in ethical shopping in Japan and more responsible consumers.
Questions, comments and suggestions from participants that were raised
– What kind of action can we take to purchase diamonds responsibly or to support diggers?
– I am worried about the effects on the future environment since I heard that the mines do not get reclaimed after mining.
– Overturning the current situation on rich and poor by educating more on rights that local people should have. This should not be a local issue but global.
– Growing industries other than diamonds, cutting off funding sources for corruption, and securing the income source of living are necessary.
– Diamond jewelry manufacturers and retailers should intervene in the upstream of the supply chain. The Government should not purchase diamonds if tax payments are not redistributed to the local community.
– It seems that each actor in the diamond supply chain doesn’t know the situation of other actors, especially those in Antwerp market (this is a comment about the movie). Importers need to have the information of the diggers and miners at the mines they source from. Also, we need to let the world know about this unfair labor situation.
– Is it difficult for the local people to jointly invest on the mining rights?
– Honestly it is too complicated to say what to do. We would like to do what we can do one by one.
After the symposium, many participants approached us to comment on what they had learned. It was agreed that improving the current situation with artisanal diamond mining is not something that can be changed overnight, but small changes are better than doing nothing. We renewed our determination to move forward to improve the situation by trying various ideas even if we fail.
Front photo: Suggestions from audience for improvement of the artisanal diamond sector. (photo by Diamonds for Peace)