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dorothee_gizenga_xx.jpgDorothée Gizenga, head of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), the organization dealing with the traditional diamond mining, in her interview to Rough&Polished told about the challenges facing DDI and the programs it is implementing.

Please tell us about the history of DDI.

The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) was created to parallel and complement the regulatory instruments of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), by responding to development needs within the artisanal diamond mining sector with development solutions.

DDI was conceived in 2005 at a meeting in London, UK with the participation of representatives from the United Nations, national governments, US and UK international development aid agencies, NGOs and the diamond industry. The purpose was to address the social and economic issues facing artisanal diamond miners who live in poverty outside the formal economy. DDI received its first funding in 2007 and subsequently became operational in 2008.

Who are the founders of your organization?

The Diamond Development Initiative grew out of the vision of Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness, which was immediately supported by De Beers. I myself was involved in the initiative from the very beginning, and became the first Executive Director at the launch of operations in 2008.

DDI’s international Board of Directors includes representatives of the diamond industry, governments, academia and civil society, residing in Belgium, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

What are the main goals of DDI?

I think our vision statement is the best answer I can give to that question. DDI envisions a world in which artisanal and small-scale miners have access to the opportunities, information and tools they need to work with dignity within flourishing, self-sustaining communities, as valued actors in the formal economy and as contributors to their country’s development.

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Registration agents and miners at the Mailomba site

The word dignity is key for me. If people work in respectful conditions, if they are recognized by their government, if they receive a decent wage, and if they have the resources to improve their own situation, they are working with dignity.

To make this vision a reality, our goal is the transformation of artisanal and small-scale diamond mining through the formalization of the sector.

What kind of programs have you already implemented, what projects are in the process of implementation and what are your plans for the near future?

Our programs are largely focused on formalization, and we use several different and complementary approaches.

One of our essential programs is Participation in the Kimberley Process (KP) for the purpose of assisting countries with alluvial artisanal diamond production to integrate development solutions alongside KP regulations and thus making KP implementation more efficient. DDI holds the status of Independent Observer in the KP.

We also have a Miners’ Registration program through which DDI has registered more than 200,000 artisanal miners in the DRC in three different projects. Registration provides the government with a database that locates and recognizes miners and mining sites, thus giving them the ability to have greater oversight of the sector, undertake appropriate policy development and planning for economic development of the sector and of the mining communities.

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Women's cooperative in Lutonde, DRC

Registered miners may be organized into cooperatives to further enhance their labour structure and economic powers. DDI is currently working on a cooperative program in the DRC.

The Maendeleo Diamond Standards Certification System is a program that helps to develop and recognize best practices in artisanal diamond mining. The application of standards for worker and human rights, environmental responsibility, health and safety and community engagement improves the conditions for miners as well as the productivity of the mining operation. MDS certification leads to new market opportunities and fair value for the diamonds, therefore further enhancing the economic situation of miners and their communities.

DDI has been implementing its MDS program in Sierra Leone where it began its first pilot project, and will soon be replicating the system in the DRC.

In order to invest in community well-being and development, DDI also sometimes responds to community needs for essentials such as clean water and education. We have built several wells in villages where there was no previous source for drinking water, and we are currently operating mobile schools in four alluvial mining villages in the DRC. The schools are a means of retiring children from the mines, and giving them the opportunity to envisage a different future.

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MDS training

What problems cause your greatest concern as the head of the DDI?

My biggest preoccupation is the sustainability of our activities. Thus, getting continuous support for our programs which require sustainable provision long-term to effect the kind of transformation we seek to achieve, is my largest priority. Linked to that is the need to remain present with our programs to artisanal miners, their families and communities, and sustaining opportunities for change.

What is your appeal to the world's leading diamond mining companies?

Artisanal mining operations continue to be characterized by a variety of development challenges. Large mining companies are concerned about the industry’s reputation and artisanal mining is part of the industry.  This is why they are happy to support DDI’s work of formalizing the ASM sector, introducing standards for artisanal operations and improving conditions for miners.

What sort of role does DDI play in the Kimberley process?

DDI plays several roles as a member of the Kimberley Process with an Independent Observer Status.

DDI is a member of the Working Group on Alluvial Artisanal Production (WGAAP), promoting the formalization of artisanal diamond mining. DDI also serves as a provisional member of the Working Group on Monitoring (WGM) and is a member of the Technical Team that guides and follows the KP Regional Approach for the Mano River Union countries.

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Students arriving at school with their supplies

Additionally, DDI is the coordinator of the KP Technical Assistance program, which enables the sharing of knowledge and expertise between member countries so they can better implement the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. Requests for assistance are received from producing countries and matched with offers of assistance from other member countries with qualifying expertise. Technical assistance is important because it builds capacity and enhances collaboration among member countries.

How serious today, in your opinion, is the problem of blood diamonds? Do they continue to be a part of the world diamond market?

The Kimberley Process was created to stem the flow of blood or conflict diamonds – rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. The KP is a regulatory mechanism and has been successful in its function. Blood diamonds are no longer the real problem.

There are still serious development issues surrounding the artisanal mining of diamonds in Africa and South America, and the KP does not deal with those. This is why DDI was created. DDI’s work is complementary to the KP, focusing on the needs of artisanal miners and their communities, and bringing about change through the transformation and formalization of the sector.

Alex Shishlo, Editor of the Rough&Polished European Bureau in Brussels