A key figure in reforming the blood diamond trade, Smillie served as keynote speaker for VJTL’s symposium last spring. In the ’90s, he negotiated on behalf of an NGO called Partnership Africa Canada to create the Kimberley Process. He also investigated the connection between diamonds and weapons for the UN Security Council, and he testified first at Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial in The Hague.
Smillie’s article focuses on the role of non-state actors in international affairs. At the symposium last year, he described how the fight against conflict diamonds continues.
“Diamonds are God’s gift to terrorists,” he told the symposium audience. “They’re God’s gift to money launderers and tax evaders. They have such a high value-to-weight ratio, and if they’re not properly regulated, that’s the place to go to.”
Smillie’s article describes the history of the illicit diamond trade from brutal wars, to increasing global awareness, to significant progress. However, he also explains why reform efforts have not fully succeeded, and he describes some potential solutions.
“Sooner or later it is likely that the [Kimberley Process] will be forced to become the regulatory system it pretends to be, or it will be replaced with something a lot tougher that can and will do the job,” he writes.
The Symposium Issue comes out next week. Listen to portions of Smillie’s speech below:
On working in Africa during the height of the conflict: “It was like the Wild West.”
On the international and industry reaction: “You couldn’t pretend that this had nothing to do with you.”
On investigating for the UN and being the first witness at Charles Taylor’s trial: “We travelled wherever we thought we had to.”
On potential reforms and the power of American consumers: