'Naming and shaming' may not be enough to halt conflict mining in Congo
While 'naming and shaming' tactics are gaining momentum in the fight against Congo's conflict minerals, they won't be enough if the trade just shifts to India and China.
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Will these initiatives have an impact? Hopefully, but it all depends on how this US-based pressure impacts the situation on the ground. Ideally, this pressure will create incentives for suppliers in the field to pressure the Congolese government to demilitarize key mining sites - after all, most large mining areas are now controlled by the Congolese army – and set up sound tracing schemes. At the same time, pressure would grow for the Congolese army to chase non-state armed groups out of other mining concessions and sanitize them, as well, for international trade. This would lead to less corruption of the Congolese military and greater incentives for demobilization for other armed groups. Some pilots for tracing schemes are under way, although the mineral export ban by the Congolese government between September 2010 - March 2011 brought a halt to those initiatives.Skip to next paragraph
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But there is another possibility: that the pressure in the US will just lead to a boycott of the Congo by endusers in the US, pushing trade to the domestic Chinese and Indian markets. Tens of thousands of Congolese jobs could be lost in the short-term and in the long-term little would change, as the endusers in Asia would probably not care much about due diligence. The authors of the conflict minerals bill say that these are scare tactics, and that western companies will continue to buy from the Congo, but I am less certain. Several Congolese organizations - including BEST in Bukavu and Pole Institute in Goma - are critical of the Dodd-Frank legislation and say the Congolese government and the industry need more time to implement the requirements.
The only way that we can ensure that activism in the US can have a positive impact on the situation in the Congo is that donors actively engage with the Congolese government to help demilitarize mining zones (perhaps starting with the lucrative Bisie mining area) and set up tracing schemes. If we don't do this, our efforts here in the US could backfire.
Unfortunately, there seems to be little movement in this direction by the US government. The Dodd-Frank bill required State Department to come up with a strategy for conflict minerals, including through support to the Congolese government, and State (after a long delay) finally brought out a short paper two weeks ago. I will post it later, but it does not appear to contain any new concrete diplomatic or institutional initiatives - a lot seems to be riding on the World Bank's Promines program.