Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Shun 'blood diamonds', shoppers urged

Amnesty International hands out shopping guide on eve of Valentine's Day, writes Anita Pati.

Amnesty International members and supporters took to the streets last weekend to stop UK shoppers buying 'blood diamonds' for Valentine's Day.

Conflict or blood diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war in countries such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Using research conducted jointly with Global Witness, Amnesty has produced a shopping guide on the issue. Members, some of whom dressed up as wedding couples, distributed more than 50,000 glossy guides at shopping centres and outside jewellers at town centres throughout the UK to advise shoppers on how to buy ethically traded diamonds.

The guide builds on joint research carried out in 2004, which found that only 18 per cent of stores surveyed had a conflict diamond policy.

However, Amnesty is not urging boycotts of specific diamond companies because it says there are too many loopholes in current diamond mining benchmarking standards, such as the Kimberley Process, to verify the exact provenance of diamonds. Instead, it is encouraging consumers to put pressure on retailers by demanding information.

The glossy leaflet Are You Looking for the Perfect Diamond? recommends that, as well as examining the usual '4Cs' - Colour, Cut, Clarity and Carat - shoppers should also ask about Conflict before making their purchases.

The guide recommends that shoppers ask questions such as "Can I see a copy of your company's policy on conflict diamonds?" before buying.

Tom Fyans, economic relations manager at Amnesty International UK, said: "The uniqueness of this partnership is our members' activism in getting consumers to pressure the retailers, combined with the background work carried out by Global Witness."

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund has endorsed the campaign, although it has not put any funding behind it. A fund spokesperson said: "I'm sure that those buying diamonds do not want to contribute to the funding of arms for civil war. We are pleased to put our name behind this worthwhile campaign."

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