A trade in illegally mined and smuggled “conflict gold” is fueling both high-level military corruption and violent rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a new report by the Enough Project. “Congo’s Conflict Gold Rush: Bringing gold into the legal trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” by the Enough Project’s Fidel Bafilemba and Sasha Lezhnev, offers an in-depth portrait of the conflict gold supply chain, from muddy artisanal mines where gold is dug out with shovels and pick-axes, through illicit transport routes in Uganda, Burundi, and Dubai. Based on seven months of field research at mines and in regional capitals, the report provides an in-depth discussion of solutions to the conflict gold supply chain.
By Fidel Bafilemba and Sasha Lezhnev | Apr 21, 2015
House of Cards actor and Enough Project upstander Robin Wright wants you to join her for lunch on the set of the hit television series to talk politics, power, and maybe even Congo. It only costs $10 and the funds benefit Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign. Read More »
From the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to Al-Shabaab, many of the world’s most infamous and destabilizing armed actors today finance their activities in part through the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources. Theft in the context of armed conflict constitutes the war crime of pillage, which is punishable in most domestic jurisdictions and at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Depuis l'État islamique d'Irak et du Levant (ISIL : Islamic State of Irak and the Levant) de l’Armée de Résistance du Seigneur (LRA : Lord’s Resistance Army) jusqu'à Al-Shabaab, de nombreuses forces armées, les plus infâmes et les plus déstabilisatrices du monde d’aujourd'hui, financent en partie leurs activités grâce au trafic et à l'exploitation illicites des ressources naturelles. Tout vol commis dans le cadre des conflits armés est considéré comme crime de guerre de pillage, lequel est punissable dans la plupart des juridictions nationales ainsi qu’à la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI).
The armed conflict in eastern Congo that has killed over 5.4 million people is financed largely by trading minerals used in an array of common consumer products around the world, from electronics to jewelry. Recent critiques by the Cato Institute and in the Washington Post have questioned whether current local and international initiatives to combat the problem are causing more harm than good. Last month, the Enough Project’s U.S. and Congo-based teams visited mining communities in eastern Congo to get an updated assessment on conflict minerals. To help you better understand what's at stake, we've provided 9 things you need to know about conflict minerals on ThinkProgress. Read More »
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“Congo”), gold is a major financial lifeline for armed actors. Fortunately, jewelry retailers and consumers can play important roles to help end the conflict gold trade and the suffering it causes, together with the actions of governments. The Enough Project has engaged with the largest jewelry retailers in an effort to encourage companies to use their power and resources in more robust, effective ways to support responsible sourcing in Congo and the Great Lakes Region. Two companies in particular—Tiffany & Co. and Signet Jewelers—have demonstrated clear leadership in beginning to address the conflict gold issue by taking proactive steps to set up supply chain controls, contribute to solutions on the ground in Congo, and support the communities affected by mining and violence in Congo.
In a new report, “How to Dismantle a Deadly Militia” the Enough Project sets out seven key non-military approaches to help ending the FDLR’s ability to continue to threaten peace and security in eastern Congo and the region. Read More »
On May 20th, 2014, the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) Academic Senate passed a conflict minerals resolution, making Cal Poly the 17th school to go conflict-free. The official statement, recently published on the University's Office of Contracts, Procurement, and Risk Management website, acknowledges the problem of conflict minerals, resolves to take into account whether companies are working to address the problem when making purchasing decisions for the University, calls upon the entire California State University system to adopt similar practices. Read More »
This resource page is designed to provide an update on the efforts to end the conflict minerals trade that finances numerous brutal armed groups in eastern Congo, note remaining challenges, and suggest strategies for encouraging lasting peace. Read More »
Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has been a primary driver of corporate and regional policy change on conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo), helping create an economic incentive for ending exploitative mining practices and reforming the region’s minerals sector. However, Dodd-Frank 1502 is only one component in a broad set of peacebuilding tools, and it must be accompanied by other initiatives to advance development of a responsible minerals trade that improves the livelihoods and security of people living in eastern Congo. These changes toward peace must include government and corporate responses, programs directly supporting the livelihoods of community members in eastern Congo, and full implementation of the regional peace agreement known as the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework in a way that is truly inclusive of those most affected by it.
This resource page is designed to provide an update on the efforts to end the conflict minerals trade that finances numerous brutal armed groups in eastern Congo, note remaining challenges, and suggest strategies for encouraging lasting peace.
For more information, please see the additional resources below - and check out the letter published by Congolese civil society members here and joint open letter here.
For nearly two decades, the war and widespread illicit exploitation of natural resources in eastern Congo has subjected Congolese citizens to a humanitarian crisis that desperately needs to be addressed. Broad reform of the minerals sector is part of a comprehensive strategy to end violence in eastern Congo, and Dodd-Frank 1502 is one catalytic component of that effort.
As part of the wider Wall Street reform effort, Dodd-Frank 1502 ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to develop a rule that requires companies to find out where their minerals come from. The rule, adopted in 2012, aims to interrupt long-standing practices of supply chain opacity, replacing them with mandatory corporate transparency, due diligence, and public awareness about four minerals that are known to fuel unspeakable violence in Congo and the surrounding region. The law has provided an economic incentive for change, which has led to increased security for many mining communities once directly controlled or terrorized by armed groups.
However, governments, donors, and companies have yet to deliver or finalize many of the other critical reforms necessary to end the conflict minerals trade.
Three main areas of reform are needed:
Livelihood programs for mining communities
Increased transparency and due diligence
Governance and mining reforms in Congo and the region
Without attention to these three categories, Dodd-Frank 1502 and any other complementary initiatives to end the conflict minerals trade in eastern Congo will be incomplete.
Livelihood Projects for Mining Communities
Dodd-Frank 1502 is making it less profitable for armed groups to illegally trade minerals in Congo and the region, helping begin the shift of the economic environment in eastern Congo and the region away from benefiting armed groups and towards creating incentives for a peaceful trade. Although miners who worked in conflict mines were subject to immense harassment, debt slavery, and attacks by armed groups and military officers, the shifts away from conflict mining also mean that many miners have had to move to other areas to try to earn a livelihood, while the responsible minerals trade slowly develops. From the beginning, human rights and mineral reform advocates have called for livelihood programs for these miners to complement Dodd-Frank 1502, but the programs have been too slow in coming to the ground in Congo. They must be boosted now. This includes:
Increasing capacity-building and micro-finance programs for artisanal mining cooperatives in eastern Congo
Finalizing reforms to the minerals sector
Respecting the rights of artisanal miners and ensuring they are given access to a legal, profitable market for their minerals
Significantly enhancing programs to develop alternative sources of income, such as high-value agriculture
Increased Transparency and Due Diligence in Tin, Tantalum, Tungsten, and Gold Supply Chains
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) has spearheaded a new regional minerals certification process. Certification is a means to the goals of transparency, compliance, and rule of law. The process has been slow and must advance with more expediency for Congo to see outside investment and experience benefits on the ground.
Retail companies are increasingly engaged in developing positive supply chain management tools, joining multi-stakeholder groups to advance the tools and policies for conflict-free minerals sourcing, and taking an increasing interest in supporting peace in the Great Lakes region. This evolution is largely due to Dodd-Frank 1502’s disclosure requirements and has positive implications for numerous industries and minerals-rich regions around the world.
Governance and Mining Reforms in Congo and the Region
Governance reform in the region’s mining sector must be strengthened, and we must not lose momentum for meaningful, lasting change. Great Lakes governments, particularly Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, must be at the forefront of these efforts, but the U.S. and other governments, international financial institutions, private investors, mining companies, consumers, and other international actors all have roles to play. They should work closely with Congolese mining communities and regional stakeholders to improve mine inspections in Congo and the ICGLR minerals certification process, increase meaningful support to Congolese miners, and invest in conflict-free mines, particularly for gold.
In large part due to Dodd-Frank 1502 and related reform efforts, there is progress toward the development of a conflict-free minerals sector in Congo. There are laws in place to prevent multinational companies from having opaque supply chains, and an increasing number of mines are being validated as conflict-free. Dodd-Frank 1502 is only one part of the solution, but if it is undermined or dispensed with, companies will return to a climate of impunity for profiting from violent conflict and lucrative minerals will continue to enrich warlords in Congo.