Are Governments also Guilty of Mining Blood Diamonds?

A Miner searching his pan for diamonds in Sierra Leone, courtesy of USAID Guinea/Wikimedia Commons

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) has been very successful in filtering ‘blood diamonds’ – those mined by rebels in war zones – out of the respectable diamond market over the last decade. But it is now under pressure to do better.

The process was set up by the diamond industry, governments and civil society under pressure from human rights activists who had threatened to lead a global boycott of diamonds because horrible rebels groups like the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and Liberia were financing their rebellions against government and atrocities against civilians, by mining diamonds and selling them into the official market. Jonas Savimbi’s perhaps less horrible but very troublesome National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) was also financing its rebellion against Angola’s Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government through diamonds.

Pakistan: A Failed State?

Pakistani protests over failed electricity distribution management. Photo: groundreporter/flickr

The term failed state is often used to describe a state perceived as having failed to meet some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of sovereign government. In international law, a failed state is one that, “though retaining legal capacity, has for all practical purposes lost the ability to exercise it.” According to the Fund for Peace that just released its seventh annual Failed State Index (FSI), a failed state is characterized by:

  1. loss of physical control of its territory or loss of the monopoly on the legitimate use of force;
  2. the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions;
  3. an inability to provide reasonable public services; and
  4. an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

The FSI is made up of 12 social, economic and political indicators − each split into an average of 14 sub-indicators. The Fund for Peace bases its assessment primarily on content analysis of thousands of electronically available articles and reports that are processed by special software.

According to the latest index scores, Pakistan ranks 12th out of 177 countries examined.

Following the Somalia Crisis

Map of population displacement by ReliefWeb
Map of population displacement by ReliefWeb

I find it rather hard to follow the Somalia crisis in mainstream international media. I guess it has something to do with the killings of journalists in the country.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), six reporters have been killed there since the beginning of the year. They say it makes Somalia the most dangerous country for journalists right now.

Frustrated at my regular news providers, I set out looking for up-to-date web-based  information on the crisis.


Here’s a selection of the websites I came across, with direct links to the relevant page on Somalia:

The Power of Photography: Life in a Failed State

Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay on failed states
Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay on failed states /

In an insightful photo essay titled ‘Life in a Failed State’, Foreign Policy provides us with a sobering view on what life looks like in some of the most desolate countries in the world.

Haunting images serve as visual reminders of the failure of national governments and the international community to address the conflicts and history of instability and underdevelopment that underlies their fragility.

The 20 top countries on the 2009 Failed States Index are featured, among them: Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Yemen and Sudan.

Further, for a rare glimpse into life in North Korea, check out a haunting slideshow by Tomas van Houtryve for Foreign Policy.