Dorothée Ginzenga

CJDG Vicente Agor: Tell me about the Diamond Development Initiative International (DDI).
Dorothée Gizenga:  DDI was created to complement the Kimberley Process, an international conflict prevention mechanism. We address the issues that are not within the Kimberley Process mandate.
 
CJDG:  For example?
DG: There are socio-economic issues affecting artisanal miners who mine diamonds in alluvial fields, where conflict diamonds started. We believe that conflict prevention requires resolution of these development issues, issues that will not disappear on their own without intervention.  

CJDG:  Intervention?
DG:  DDI represents the first attempt to take a holistic approach to the challenges of artisanal alluvial diamond production, working with governments, miners, civil society and industry to solve problems that will not disappear on their own and need sustained support. Through education and projects working directly with artisanal miners, the DDI seeks to promote better understanding and concrete solutions for issues relating to the artisanal diamond-mining sector.  

 CJDG: So really, DDI takes the Kimberley Process to the next level?
DG: The Kimberley Process is most challenged in the alluvial diamond areas, where internal controls required by the certification scheme are weak or non-existent. DDI is working with governments to increase internal controls through projects, and enhance the implementation of the KP.  

In addition, our program on Human Rights Education is intended to eliminate in time all human rights violations in the alluvial diamond areas and thus, protect and uphold the reputation of the KP on which the public and consumers rely.
 
CJDG:  Please help me with the phrase “artisanal miner.” Could you explain the term?
DG: Artisanal miners are individuals, families or groups who work independently, not employed by a mining company, to mine and process diamonds using rudimentary tools (shovels, sieves and pans). Their work is labor intensive. The majority of artisanal miners are informal and they work in unregulated and sometimes dangerous environments. They are driven into mining by poverty and a dream of realization of big gains. They are primarily subsistence miners. The majority of artisanal miners do not know the true value of rough diamonds and are therefore, vulnerable to exploitation.    

CJDG: You mentioned education and on-the-ground projects for the artisanal miner. Can you give me an example of one or two projects that the DDI is working on?
DG: Yes, I can give you two examples of our work on the ground. In Sierra Leone, DDI is establishing a system that will be suitable for promoting responsible mining in the artisanal diamond-mining sector.  This is important both for the reputation of the industry and the miners as well. The system would allow the miners to become responsible economic agents and get fairer prices for ethically produced diamonds.  

And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we conducted a miners’ registration and diamond production tracking project. This program represents an important step toward formalizing the artisanal diamond-mining sector, promoting the security of the sector, as well as increasing tax revenues through progressive reduction of illicit diamond mining.  

CJDG:  And you started with a test program with a goal of registering 10,000 miners, correct?
DG: Yes, and the response was tremendous. We registered over 101,000 individual miners. But that is just the beginning, because in this country alone there are an estimated 800,000 to 1 million people who work in artisanal mines. Our work also increased the number of known artisanal diamond mining sites from 254 to 667.

The registration data was manually collected and was then entered into a custom-designed database, which also captures geographic, demographic and socio-economic information on mine operators.


  Research project on youth in artisanal diamond mining in collaboration with Street Kids International. Photo credits: DDI

CJDG: Tell me a little about the importance of being “on the ground.”
DG: Sometimes administrators will sit in their offices and create rules and regulations. As an organization, we are on the ground. For example, I was just in Sierra Leone and delivered several workshops. And that allowed me to sit with miners. Listen to them. Listen to their hopes for themselves and their children.    

CJDG:  You get a totally different perspective that way.
DG: Yes, very true. We also work directly with the local authorities and involve the government so that they are all on board.  

CJDG: I imagine this can be slow work, convincing people to change.
DG: In most cases it is slow. Then sometimes you meet with some people that also want the change and all they needed was support. They enthusiastically support your work because it supports their vision. In our work, we always have to take a lot of time for sensitization and awareness creation. These steps can never be skipped.  

CJDG: And what type of different approaches have you adopted?
DG: In the registration of artisanal miners project, we organized multi-secor teams to go out to the mining sites.  And the question might be, why is that important? By going to the mining sites, we are allowing the miners to become legal without losing a day’s work or more for travel to a government office,  and thus losing productivity and potential income. Many of the fields were inaccessible by jeep or car, so we took motorcycles.  These types of different approaches have resulted in registering a large number of miners, over 100,000 of them, as well as uncovering mining sites that were not on the government’s radar before. This is a tremendous success.


  Research project on youth in artisanal diamond mining in collaboration with Street Kids International. Photo credits: DDI

CJDG: How did you get involved in this organization?
DG:  I got involved in the Kimberley Process in 2003 when I joined Partnership Africa Canada, one of the KP founding NGOs. In 2004, the organization, jointly with Global Witness, conducted a study and published a report on alluvial artisanal diamond mining. The idea to create DDI was then born to address the issues to which the report was pointing out – issues that the creation and the existence of the Kimberley Process did not address. In 2008, I became the Executive director of DDI and was involved in various fora discussing ethical jewelry.  

CJDG:  And what was your personal impetus?
I remember, when I was praying for a fulfilling career job, I wanted to get involved in the kind of work that would allow me to make a difference and help myself and my family.  I’m a chemist by training, but I was never fully satisfied until I discovered the work of international development.  I am originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and I was very touched by the idea that natural resources should not fuel wars. It became my passion.  

CJDG: And what a passion. What’s been the most rewarding moment of working with DDI?
DG: When I see artisanal miners understand why we are there speaking to them and wanting to make the changes; that is very rewarding. When they voluntarily remove children from the mining sites, as we sensitize them against child labor; that is very rewarding. When governments change their policies and approaches to facilitate our work that supports development; that is very rewarding.
 
CJDG: So let's switch it up a bit.  It's time for your Rhyme Question. We just talked about rewarding, so given these choices, which one of these would you choose to reward yourself for all your hard-work: spa, guffaw, withdraw, gnaw, draw, or see-saw?
DG: I spend a lot of time traveling on the plane, at the airports, on bumpy roads. A spa would be my reward of choice. I would love for my body to be pampered. But I never get a chance to go!  I’ll come home from a long trip and then … start back with my office work like fundraising, or writing proposals. Maybe over Christmas!  And I have a new grandchild, so one day, I hope to play with her in the playground. Playing on the see-saw with her would be a nice reward!
 
CJDG: I know that you travel a lot for your job.  Where have you been recently?
Many places. As I mentioned, I just returned from Sierra Leone. And have been to Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Angola and of course Brazil.

CJDG:  And so you must be multi-lingual. How many languages are you fluent in? Three? Four?
DG: Actually, five. Russian, Portuguese, English, French, and Lingala, one of the national languages of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
CJDG: Amazing. With all of that travel, what is your favorite city to visit?
DG: I can tell you that my favorite city to return to is Ottawa, Canada. This is where I live and where the son that lives with me is. Often, it is a return to the peace and comfort that I may not experience during my travel. Ottawa is homey with a slow pace compared to many metropolitan cities, and it recharges “my battery” to continue the work I do … so that others may achieve comfort and peace.

CJDG: I heard the best analogy about your organization: The DDI is similar to an organization like the American Cancer Society or the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation that is looking for a cure. The DDI is working towards a cure, the ultimate goal being the production of development diamonds throughout the globe. You aren’t at the cure yet, but the DDI is part of the solution.
DG:  Yes, I like that! The concept of Development Diamond Standards came through a forum called Madison Dialogue Development Diamonds. Development diamonds are described as diamonds that are produced responsibly, safely, with respect for human rights and community rights, with benefits to communities and with payment of fair prices to miners. 
 

CJDG:  Is there was one last thought for our readers?
DG:  The jewelry industry is pro-active. The trend for ethical consumerism is here. We are helping to provide the reassurance to consumers that real changes can be and are being made. I believe it is important to support – financially - organizations like ours; there are so many agencies that shy away from this type of work.  But this is true poverty reduction and development work. And we are doing it.
 
CJDG: Thank you Dorothée for your time. You and your organization are truly inspirational.

The Friends of DDI campaign offers a responsible and simple way to make a difference.   The campaign is supported by leading jewelers and designers, including Susan Jacques, president and CEO of Borsheims Fine Jewelry and Gifts, who is the Honorary Chair of the program, as well as Alishan, Cartier, Mark Patterson, M.J. Christensen, and Todd Reed, among others.

They have multiple levels of annual contribution and recognition, starting at $250.  And as a registered charitable non-profit 501 (C)(3) in the U.S., your donation is tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

To learn more about the work of DDI and the Friends of DDI campaign, visit www.ddiglobal.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

 


 

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