By Michelle Graff
Ottawa, Ontario—The Diamond Development Initiative has officially launched the Maendeleo Diamond Standards, the certification system for diamonds sourced from artisanal and small-scale mining operations that DDI has been testing since 2012.

The Maendeleo Diamond Standards consist of eight specific principles covering legality, consent and community engagement, human and worker’s rights, health and safety, violence-free operations, environmental management, interactions with large-scale mining, and site closure.

Diamonds mined under these standards will be certified by DDI as “Maendeleo Diamonds” (Maendeleo is a Swahili word meaning development), and can be considered as being mined in conflict-free zones through violence-free operations that respect both human and worker’s rights and use practices that are environmentally responsible.

DDI developed the standards in consultation with governments, the diamond industry, local civil society organizations and artisanal miners in four African countries and South America.

It field-tested the program via pilot projects in Sierra Leone in 2012 and 2013, and expanded it from a pilot to a full program there in 2014.

DDI said late last month that the standards have received “broad acceptance” in Sierra Leone and are ready for implementation outside the country, across communities in Africa and South America where artisanal and small-scale diamond mining takes place.

What this means is that commercial entities, such as diamond suppliers and jewelry retailers, will now be able to ethically source diamonds from artisanal and small-scale operations, supporting miners and their communities by including their goods in the supply chain while also being able to give consumers credible assurance that their diamonds are responsibly sourced, DDI Executive Director Dorothee Gizenga said.

Established in 2007, the DDI is a non-profit that works to give artisanal and small-scale miners access to opportunities, information and the tools they need to flourish and be self-sustaining. DDI has independent observer status in the Kimberley Process.

The organization estimates that artisanally mined diamonds are a major source of livelihood for more than 1.5 miners working in 18 countries in Africa and South America, supporting as many as 10 million family members.

They represent almost 20 percent of the global diamond industry’s annual output by volume, but typically earn less than $2 a day working illegally under terrible conditions. Violence and child labor are common, and environmental damage is common.

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