Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Giving Loving Gifts, by Rees Warne

St. Valentine’s day is around the corner and I know for Fair Traders, buying Fair Trade chocolate or crafts is an easy way to say “I love you” while making sure your gift embodies your values from production to the product in your hand. But what if you’ve got your heart set on buying a diamond necklace or a gold watch for your Valentine? Can you still make sure your values are being upheld and your gift does no harm? Rees Warne, CRS’ Strategic Issues Advisor on Extractives, has some helpful tips for when you’re shopping for your Valentine.

I can tell St. Valentine’s Day is approaching by the way advertisers are reminding me to show someone special that I love them. While it’s important to tell people you love them throughout the year, Valentine’s Day is a nice moment to reflect on the meaning of love and to do nice things for others. This February 14th, spread the love even farther by making sure that the gifts you give not only bring a big smile to someone close to you, but also provide benefits to those involved in producing that gift.

Diamonds and jewelry are often touted as gifts of love for St. Valentine’s Day. If you decide to give diamonds, please check to make sure that the diamonds are certified as conflict-free. The Kimberly Process diamond certification system was set up to prevent so-called “blood diamonds” – diamond mining that is used to fund violent militias – from (literally and figuratively) ending up on the hands of people who simply wanted to celebrate their love.

Considering gold earrings or a necklace as a gift? Ask your jeweler whether the gold used in them was mined in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Poorly regulated and managed gold mines can contaminate waters with toxics like cyanide, and too many mines have been linked to human rights abuses. CRS supports people in Africa and Latin America who are working with their government and with mining companies to make improvements.

You can also help spread the wealth that is generated by mining precious stones and metals to reach the people who need it most. In too many countries where mines are located, much of the legitimate revenues paid by mining companies to the government “disappears,” and too little of it is channeled into paying for public programs like health and education. CRS is a founding member of the Publish What You Pay US campaign. Contact your representatives in Washington about support for legislation to require companies to report what they pay to governments (a crucial first step in transparency that enables people to hold their own government to account).

-from Catholic Relief Services

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