Analysis: Blood Diamonds

 The release of the Leonard Di Caprio film Blood Diamonds shows how business and human greed interconnect to cause suffering across the world. The film is about the trade in diamonds which helps to fund wars across Africa. It is hoped that it will encourage buyers of diamonds to make sure that they have not come from an area of bloody conflict. The film also exposes how those who sit in offices often in the West far from the battlefield make decisions that cost lives. The danger of the uncontrolled multinational corporation marauding across the globe making profits at the cost of all else stretches beyond the diamond trade and Africa to other countries. The detrimental power of multinationals has recently been evidenced in the Philippines where a craven government has allowed mining countries to run amok, displacing people from the land and endangering the environment. The sensitivity of the Philippines Government and its corporate backers to criticism was evidenced in the recent disgraceful deporting of Columban Father Frank Nally, who wanted to enter the country to launch a report titled 'Mining in the Philippines: Concerns and Conflicts.' The report was the result of a visit to the country by a delegation including Father Nally and former Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short. It reveals that "the Philippines faces a crisis of extra-judicial killing." More than 700 activists - including civil rights and environmental advocates - have been killed since the current administration came to power in 2001. "It is of concern that those in government and international agencies seem to lack the capacity or inclination to challenge and end such misconduct," says the report. The World Bank has played a major role as a willing partner of the multinationals in encouraging the Philippines Government to open up the country to the mining companies. Here the World Bank can be seen as a lever to let Western capital in to rip out raw materials with little regard for the environment or human rights. Another country where the present government seems to run to the tune of the multinational companies is Colombia. Again many indigenous people are being cleared off the land to make way for foreign companies, operations. Those who stand up for the people's rights often pay with their lives. Some 3,500 trade unionists have died in Colombia over recent years with the school teachers union particularly hard hit. The corruption of the government of President Alvaro Uribe has recently become clear as Supreme Court hearings have exposed links with right wing paramilitary groups. The paramilitaries are the ones who do the dirty work for government and business, committing the killings and general terror that clears the land. Up to now they have managed to dwell strictly in the deniability zone. There are though signs of hope in Colombia with a new centre left party called Democratic Pole beginning to take hold. At the recent presidential election the party got 25 per cent of the vote despite being frozen out by the media. There are now also other models of development in the region to pursue, such as those of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, where the lot of the poor is being put ahead of that of foreign business. The devastation caused by the unregulated and unaccountable transnational companies is clear for all to see. As Christians it is important that everything possible is done to help our brothers and sisters in these countries. Actions that can make a difference, include raising the issues of the damage being done environmentally and in human rights terms with MPs and Government. A major problem in Colombia for instance is the amount of military aid that the UK and US provide to the Colombian Government. One trade union demand is that the military aid is converted into humanitarian aid. Politicians also need to be pressured to bring in international regulations that will stop the multinationals running roughshod across the world doing so much damage. Pressure can also be put directly on the companies concerned. Companies are increasingly concerned about their public image and will not like being branded as human rights abusers or ecological destroyers.. At another level there is consumer power. Don't buy blood diamonds. Consumer power is a growing force in the land. The mushrooming of the fair trade movement is a good example of how influential this form of action can be. So there is lots that that can be done at many levels to help ensure that the world becomes a more just place for all. Paul Donovan was recently named Journalist of the Year by London Citizens.

Share this story