Development Diamonds


Published December 10, 2013


Ethical Metalsmiths interview with Dorothée Gizenga, Executive Director of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI)


DiamondsDiamonds are often a focal point in jewelry and despite this spotlight role they are also the most mysterious and challenging material to trace, especially when mined artisanally. While their mine to market traceability is an essential first step to a better, more transparent, fair and transformative diamond supply chain, just knowing where a diamond comes from isn’t enough. By stopping at traceability, jewelers and consumers miss the more complex story and a valuable opportunity to enable a diamond engagement ring to be a catalyst for positive change.

Earlier this year Ethical Metalsmiths conducted an interview with Dorothée Gizenga, Executive Director of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI). DDI’s approach to improving the diamond supply chain includes traceability, but it goes much deeper to address the root causes of the conflicts and strife that are part of most diamonds’ histories. EM’s questions examine DDI’s history, its affiliations, the concept of “development diamonds”, relation to the Kimberley Process, pervasive secrecy in the diamond trade, specific programs and plans and questions from EM member jewelers.

Today there are opportunities for jewelry, made with traditional materials like gold and diamonds, to actually and positively benefit the communities from which the raw materials are sourced. The concept of “development diamonds” and the testing of this concept by the Diamond Development Initiative form the backbone of this interview.

Note: EM did not edit Dorothée Gizenga’s responses to our questions.

Interview questions developed by:
Jennifer Dawes – Independent Jewelry Designer + EM Futuring Committee
Alexandra Hart - Independent Jewelry Designer + EM Futuring Committee
Christina Miller – Executive Director, EM


1. Dorothée, please tell us your background and how you came to be the Executive Director of the Diamond Development Initiative?

I started my formal education in Chemistry at University Agostinho Neto in Angola, which I concluded at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and then studied Economics at York University in Toronto. Although, my work does not directly relate to either field, much of the learning does play a role in my present undertakings. While living in Toronto, I worked for the Provincial Government of Ontario, which I left after 8 years of service. I was then involved with community organizations promoting the well-being and integration of immigrants to Canada, but also the promoting of trade between African and Canadian business women, through an organization (CAABWA), which I co-founded with five other women, both of African and Canadian descent.

I later moved to Ottawa and did a one-year fellowship with Foreign Affairs Canada at the Centre for Canadian Foreign Policy, which no longer exists.

My life in diamonds started when I joined the organization Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), where I was a Program Manager for various mineral related projects, including the Kimberley Process, the International Conference for the Great Lakes and also the Prevention of Violence against Women in the Eastern DRC.

PAC was one of the founding members of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI). Having been intimately involved in the concept of DDI, once it was ready to be functional and the position of the Executive Director was advertised, I applied for the job and got it.

2. EM: What is the relationship between DDI and the Partnership Africa/Canada?

As I indicated above, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) was one of the founding members of DDI and we’re now sister organizations.  In 2004, PAC, in collaboration with the organization Global Witness, a member of the Kimberley Process at the time, undertook research on artisanal diamond mining, which in turn led to the concept of DDI.

What the research showed was that the KP’s work, while vital, wasn’t actually changing the conditions of diamond mining in the field, where conflict diamonds originate. The KP is a regulatory mechanism for conflict prevention, yet the issues that affect people on the ground and that can lead to conflict are developmental in nature. We need to prioritize regulation and development, it cannot be either or.

DDI Meeting with Miners Sierra Leone3. EM: DDI takes the position that as the ethical jewelry movement evolves “development diamonds” should be part of the jewelry industry’s responsible sourcing plans. How would you explain the potential for the industry to aid in bringing about the changes DDI has prioritized?

Photo Credit: DDI Executive Director, Dorothée Gizenga, speaking at a Development Diamond Standards Workshop in Sierra Leone.

Because of the highly profiled issue of conflict diamonds, the diamond industry is constantly scrutinized. In the quasi instant media environment of today, conflict diamonds, give way to other concerns such as environmental protection; confrontational violence between artisanal miners and large scale mining companies, including human rights violations by security forces; human rights violations by government forces; violence between artisanal miners; child labour and health and safety issues.

The industry needs to be ethical throughout the entire supply chain, from the source (whether it’s large scale or artisanal diamond mining), through to the point of sale. Thus, it is important that the larger companies help the smaller and individual workers. And that those not involved in the retail sector, which faces customers directly, still do their part to support the entire industry, without false pretensions of being safe behind a non-consumer wall.  Diamonds are not an essential good, but they are a “feel good” good. It is important for the future of the industry to keep it that way. That is where ethics truly come in.

4. EM: Some of our readers may be learning about “development diamonds” for the first time, can you explain the key differences DDI would like to highlight between artisanal diamond mining and large scale or industrial diamond mining?

Artisanal miners are individuals, families or groups who work independently, not employed by a mining company, to mine and process diamonds using rudimentary tools (shovels, sieves and pans). Their work is labor intensive. The majority of artisanal miners are informal and they work in unregulated and sometimes dangerous environments. They are driven into mining by poverty and a dream of big gains. They are primarily subsistence miners. The majority of artisanal miners do not know the true value of rough diamonds and are therefore, vulnerable to price exploitation, which makes it difficult for them to rise out of poverty.

5. EM: There is a relationship between DDI and the Kimberley Process. Can you explain the relationship and help our readers understand the difference in the regulatory aims of the Kimberley Process and the development goals of DDI?

DDI was created to complement the Kimberley Process, an international conflict prevention mechanism. We address the issues that are not within the Kimberley Process mandate. There are socio-economic issues affecting artisanal miners who mine diamonds in alluvial fields, where conflict diamonds started. We believe that conflict prevention requires resolution of these development issues, issues that will not disappear on their own without intervention.

DDI represents the first attempt to take a holistic approach to the challenges of artisanal alluvial diamond production, working with governments, miners, civil society and industry to solve problems that will not disappear on their own and need sustained support. Through education and projects working directly with artisanal miners, DDI seeks to promote better understanding and concrete solutions for issues relating to the artisanal diamond-mining sector.

The Kimberley Process is most challenged in the alluvial diamond areas, where internal controls required by the certification scheme are weak or non-existent. DDI is working with governments to increase internal controls through projects, and enhance the implementation of the KP through policies and project. After a number of years, the KP now recognizes the importance of development and its effectiveness.

Diamond Miner registration DRC6. EM: The DDI website states that, the Diamond Development Standard (DDS) aims to actualize DDI’s “development diamonds” concept and that the DDS being field tested to achieve Proof of Concept, in order to demonstrate its feasibility throughout the diamond pipeline—from mine to market.  Can you give us a brief narrative that makes personal the concept of field-testing? What is happening on the ground now and who is being affected?

Photo Credit: DDI - Registration of artisanal miners in the province of Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The main point of the pilot is to test the standards of the system on the ground, in the context of the realities that artisanal diamond miners face day-to-day. One of the ways in which we do this is by building on systems and practices already in place.

In the case of environmental management, miners and operators point out that in addition to the macro-impacts of environmental damage, they rely on the environment for their day-to-day needs, such as the use of medicinal plants for example.

The question now is what can they realistically do for the environment within their context?
Building their capacity on environmentally friendly mining techniques that are particularly suitable to the rudimentary way artisanal miners mine, is one way we address this.

In summary, we’re testing different approaches to enable miners and operators to apply responsible mining standards.

7. EM: The systemic issues associated with diamonds aren’t limited to actual sourcing, but extend into the entire system through which diamonds are mined, bought, sold and marketed. Since DDI addresses systemic issues how will the on the ground changes address the legacy of secrecy in the industry?

In establishing the Development Diamond Standards (DDS), we’ve established a system that is transparent and traceable. By tracking Development Diamonds all the way from miner to retailer, we maintain the integrity of our system and the diamonds it brings to market. Members of the industry that participate and support us in our goal understand that and are willing participants.

And if good behavior is contagious, DDS is planting the seed for such conduct.

8. EM: One of your programs is to register artisanal diamond miners and due to DDI’s success also gold miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Can you explain how and why registration benefits artisanal miners and aids development objectives? How does DDI convince miners to become registered?

There are a few answers to how/why registration benefits artisanal miners:

1.    Registration informs the government about who artisanal miners are, where they are and how much they produce, among other things. It provides officials with social demographic information with regards to these workers. In addition to invaluable information, registration also enhances security. In a country whose conflict is linked to mineral sources and the fight to take control of them, this program allows governments to have knowledge that was inaccessible before and enables officials to expand the registration process across the whole nation.
2.    The information contained in the database allows policy makers to develop programs that support artisanal diamond miners. The social demographic information helps organizations, governments and NGO’s understand what drives people to mining. In many cases, there are not enough opportunities available in other fields, despite the reasonable level of education among miners, and social programs directed at artisanal diamond miners can make all the difference.
3.    Registration is the first step in the formalization process and it creates opportunities for developmental support. We hope that formalization will help establish access to credit, which informal miners have no opportunity for. Formalization benefits miners where there is the right political will, and where development programs are put in place.

To convince miners to register, we undertake a sensitization campaign that extends to mining sites, churches, on the radio and we pair it with direct dialogue with the miners themselves. We work for them, and once they understand that and they are encouraged by it, the registration process goes pretty smoothly.

9. EM: What are the biggest challenges right now to bringing “development diamonds” to market? How could jewelers help to address these challenges?

Some of the main challenges also present unique opportunities. For example, local diamond trading is usually conducted between parties who either already have established business and/or financing relationships with each other. As such, the question of valuations and prices do not pose as many difficulties as will be the case between trading parties who have never worked with each other. In the case of the DDS system, the goal is to channel Development Diamonds™ through the open pipeline rather than only through specific trading networks. However, the valuation and pricing process tends to be more challenging depending on the interests of different parties.

For jewelers, this situation also presents opportunities because they can broaden the scope of Development Diamonds™ that are brought to market by sourcing and designing jewelry from gem as well as non-gem quality diamonds, which do not present the same level of valuation and pricing challenges.

JCK Conference DDI Table

10. EM: What would DDI like the Ethical Metalsmiths community to know about your strategy and goals? What is your primary message to independent jewelry makers?

Photo Credit: DDI - Catherine Sproule, COO of the Responsible Jewellery Council with Dorothée Gizenga AND Tenzin Wangkhang of DDI, at JCK Toronto 2012

Our work is about addressing the underlying issues that most affect the system. We want to create change on the ground directly for the most vulnerable communities in diamond mining, which are artisanal miners and their families.

Our message is simply that our work is about engaging all stakeholders and finding the right solutions. Furthermore, independent jewelry makers are particularly well positioned to explore various options for creating and marketing jewelry with diamonds that originate from artisanal miners.

11. EM: Several of our member jewelers have very specific questions about how to source “development diamonds.”

a.    How can jewelers who want to source artisanally mined “development diamonds” go about doing that?

Keep in touch with DDI as we move towards the sourcing stage of the standards project; we anticipate this to occur over the next several months.

b.    Are independent jewelers going to be able to talk directly with artisanal miners and learn about what is happening on the ground?

As we move forward with the project, one component we’re working on is expanding the interactions between all stakeholders.

c.    What is the quality of the diamonds coming from the communities DDI is working with?

Overall, the quality of their diamonds reflects the type of diamonds produced in Sierra Leone. Historically, they have been of overall good color/quality. However, the majority of diamonds exported (by volume) from Sierra Leone tend to be either of industrial quality or of gem quality below 1.80ct (melee). In the short and medium terms, since it will not be realistic to expect that specific qualities can be guaranteed from the ADM context, it will be helpful to these communities if jewelry makers explored options for using their industrial quality diamonds as well.

d.    What should we be telling our customers about “development diamonds?” What is the proof that “development diamonds” are making a difference in people’s lives?

Artisanally mined diamonds account for up to 15 per cent of global diamond production. The DDS system complements other initiatives by focusing on the most vulnerable group of diamond mining communities. It is not otherwise feasible for other initiatives designed for the formal sector to cover the vastly informal sector. Historically, the ADM sector has been most vulnerable to social and environmental issues. Without a mechanism like DDS that is especially applicable in the informal context of artisanal diamond mining, there would be a gap, which could undermine broader efforts to ensure ethical diamond mining throughout the pipeline. DDS is designed to harmonize with other initiatives in a manner that ensures cohesion and promotes clarity for consumers.

e.    Will jewelers have an opportunity to visit artisanal diamond mining communities?

In the long run we envision that jewelers and other stakeholders will be able to have a first-hand view of the work that we’re doing on the ground to further our shared goals.

12. EM: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

The kind of systemic transformation required in the artisanal mining sector is something that will take time, commitment and resources. As overwhelming as it may feel, the reality is that we need to take one step at a time and be a part of the solution at all times. We can’t be afraid of engaging all vested stakeholders, as our mandate indicates. We work to gather all these interested parties and help them realize they’re in it for the long haul.

For further information on the Diamond Development Initiative please visit:

DDI’s 2012 Annual Report: Annual Report 2012,