Rolex, Pandora, Cartier … Valentine’s approaches. This year, if you’re basically a moral and just person, you might want to stick with chocolates.
Those are just some of the companies that Human Rights Watch (HRW) says may be obtaining their gold and diamonds from the use of more than a million child workers, most abused in Africa.
Child labor is not news. Neither is the knowledge that precious stones or rare earths have funded Africa’s most brutal wars. The DiCaprio block buster Blood Diamonds continues to attract a healthy viewership more than a decade after it was released.
I had the privilege of guiding Douglas Farah on safari, the author of “Blood from Stones”. Farah was the former Washington Post reporter who brilliantly documented the chain of abusive that ultimately funded West Africa’s most horrible war.
But each year at Valentine’s people forget. And each year they forgot they forgot the year before and so the precious gem industry in particular slips away from its moral responsibility not to support such barbarism.
HRW carefully researched the thirteen largest jewelry retailers in the west. Only one, Tiffany, was given a passing grade.
The problem according to HRW is that retailers “simply rely on the untested assurances of their suppliers.”
The jewelry industry as a whole is covering up the problem. After the last decade’s intense scrutiny reflected by popular movies and books like DiCaprio’s and Harris’, the industry created what it called the Responsible Jewelry Council. It may have been useful when first created, HRW explains, but now it has allowed the lack of consumer attention to lead to “flawed standards, governance, and certification systems.”
The Dodd-Frank legislation literally moved mountains to stop child labor of precious metals in The Congo, but Congress slacked on funding for its enforcement by the end of the Obama years.
The current American administration has actively stopped enforcing any of the sections dealing with child labor in Africa. According to Amnesty International this has resulted in Apple, Samsung and Sony once again paying warlords using child miners for the metals needed in the iPhone, Galaxy and Blu-Ray discs.
This most depressing irony is that the good times in the Good World lead to bad times in the Bad World.
An improving economy, a public overwhelmed with their own politics – it all leads to a retreat of attention from the world’s most abused and neglected. You could argue that Trumpism is a diversion from monitoring and controlling all the most horrible evils in the world.
There is probably nothing sadder than an 8-year old working in an open-pit mine in The Congo. Remember that when you prepare for next week’s Feast of Saint Valentine.