The tide on conflict minerals is starting to turn but more must be done to close loopholes that still allow smuggling. The most recent outbreak of violence in eastern Congo, spawned by the Rwanda-backed M23 rebellion, has economic interests at its core, as the rebels and their patrons are resolved to preserve their access to Congolese land and natural resources, including minerals. However, this masks noteworthy progress that companies and governments have made over the past 18 months to significantly diminish the ability of armed groups to generate income from conflict minerals.
By Fidel Bafilemba, Sasha Lezhnev, and Sarah Zingg Wimmer | Aug 6, 2012
Over the weekend the U.S. State Department announced it was suspending $200,000 worth of Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, normally allocated to support a military academy in Rwanda. The suspension of aid is the first punitive action taken against Kigali since the allegations of support to the M23 rebellion in Congo surfaced in late June. Read More »
The Minneapolis suburb of Edina recently became the third city in the United States to adopt legislation to avoid purchasing electronics that perpetuate the conflict in eastern Congo. Edina high school activist Tara Mohtadi wrote this guest blog post about her student group’s advocacy victory. Read More »
Amid new evidence of Rwandan support for the rebellion across the border in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Rutshuru territory, revealed by the United Nations Group of Experts, U.S. Special Advisor to the Great Lakes Barrie Walkley visited the region. Read More »
Wendy Crompton is a law student and intern at the U.S. State Department, where she recently attended a screening of the video series "I Am Congo,” produced by the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign. In this guest blog post she writes about the impact the stories featured in the video had on her work. Read More »
After a one year delay, the Securities and Exchanges Commission, or SEC, announced yesterday, June 3, that it will meet on August 22 to finally vote on the adoption of conflict minerals regulations required by Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act. Read More »
Throughout the month of June, three major companies broke ranks from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announcing that they do not support its stance against Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. These announcements came at the heels of an extensive grassroots advocacy campaign, with Raise Hope for Congo and Global Witness activists urging companies to step up for 1502. Such outspokenness from industry leaders comes as a huge success to the conflict minerals movement, and more companies should follow suit. Read More »
Industry should follow the positive steps taken by Microsoft, General Electric (GE) and Motorola Solutions
WASHINGTON, DC and LONDON -- Human rights groups in the US and the UK are calling on leading electronics and automotive companies to make public statements against the position taken by the US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) on conflict minerals, or cut ties with the organization. The Chamber has made threats to overturn a key section of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to curb the deadly trade in conflict minerals from eastern Congo. The rights groups are calling on companies including Acer, AT&T, Canon, Dell, Ford, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola Mobility, Panasonic, RIM (Blackberry), Verizon and Xerox to take this action.
The call comes in the weeks after Microsoft, General Electric and Motorola Solutions broke from the Chamber’s position, announcing they do not support its stance against Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which aims to break the link between the global trade in minerals and violence in eastern DRC.
“Human rights advocates applaud Microsoft, GE and Motorola Solutions for taking a stand on this life-or-death issue,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project. “Other leading electronics, automotive, and jewelry companies must now follow their lead.”
In May, the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre wrote to prominent electronics and automotive companies and asked them to clarify their positions on Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Microsoft took a leadership position when it stated, “Microsoft has expressed support for the SEC’s prompt action on this rulemaking and we do not support or fund the Chamber’s lobbying against the proposed rules.” General Electric, meanwhile, responded that “the views and positions expressed by the Chamber are its own, and not GE’s.” Motorola Solutions stated that “The views and positions expressed by the Chamber on conflict minerals are not our own.”
Other electronics companies, notably AT&T, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola Mobility and Verizon, responded but declined to answer the question about the discrepancy between their public positions as companies in supporting action to tackle conflict minerals and their involvement with the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Ford and Xerox declined to respond at all.
“Leading companies at the center of the international debate on conflict minerals appear to be trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said Jana Morgan of Global Witness. “They can’t pledge support for efforts to stamp out the trade in conflict minerals in Congo, while simultaneously supporting the Chamber; an association employing lobbyists to gut the law. These companies must disassociate themselves from the Chamber of Commerce’s position on conflict minerals.”
“Consumers have made it plain to companies that they want conflict-free products to come to market, and stand ready to reward those companies that are doing their utmost to achieve that goal,” said Fred Kramer, Executive Director of Jewish World Watch. “Those same consumers will be sorely disappointed to learn that otherwise proactive companies are at the same time hedging their bets by quietly supporting the Chamber.”
Notes to editors:
1. The following organizations have signed on to this statement: The Conflict Free Campus Initiative, Congo Action Now, Earthworks, The Enough Project, Global Witness, Jewish World Watch, and STAND.
2. The trade in conflict minerals from eastern Congo provides financing to armed groups that have terrorized the region’s civilian population for over a decade, fueling the world’s deadliest war since World War II, with over 5.4 million people dead. In response, Congress included a provision in the Dodd Frank Act – Section 1502 – which requires companies that use tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold to carry out due diligence on their supply chains and report publicly on the steps they have taken.
3. Electronics industry associations, the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global E-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), as well as other leading companies, have publicly supported measures to deal with conflict minerals. However, lobbyists such as the US Chamber of Commerce and NAM have fought to weaken Section 1502, and the Chamber has said it is considering legal action to block it. Some members of EICC and GeSI, as well as other major firms involved in efforts to address the conflict minerals trade, are also members or funders of the US Chamber of Commerce, and in some cases NAM.
4. The Enough Project has urged companies and the Chamber to support section 1502 since October 2011, with the Step Up for 1502 campaign which led to thousands of consumers writing on the Facebook walls of Dell, Panasonic, Acer, Canon, and the US Chamber. Global Witness wrote a commentary on the issue in May 2012 and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited businesses concerned to respond with their comments.
5. Links between leading companies and the US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers:
The U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission, or SEC, has failed to publish regulations implementing section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act nearly two years since the act’s passage. Last week, 58 members of Congress signed a letter to the chairperson of the SEC, Mary Schapiro, asking her to schedule a vote on these vital regulations before July 1, 2012. Read More »