- What is Conflict-free Technology?
- What is happening in the Congo?
- Regulating the trade of conflict minerals
- More about conflict minerals
- Allied organizations
What is Conflict-free Technology?
Conflict-free technology is a campaign launched by the Spanish NGO, ALBOAN,to draw attention to the connection between mobile phones, tablets and computers and the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
At the same time it raises proposals for collaboration can do can help to end the violence.
- Sign for mineral trade fair. We are collecting signatures because we want a European directive that will effectively prevent the international minerals trade from fuelling armed conflicts. Leave us your email and we will keep you informed about all news.
What is happening in the Congo?
The DRC, particularly the eastern part of the country, is one of the world’s richest mining regions. It contains 80% of the world’s reserves of coltan, a mineral without which the information and communication technology revolution, especially mobile phones, would not have been possible.
In addition to coltan, there are three other key minerals which are essential to information technology: gold, tungsten and tin. They are the so called “conflict minerals” or more crudely “blood minerals”.
Their extraction, processing and sale is controlled by armed groups which have made the Congo a living hell, with a death toll of over five million since 1998. Fighting forced one million people from their homes in 2013 alone. Rape is used as a weapon of war – over 100,000 women are raped each year.
These “blood-tainted” minerals are hidden in our mobile phones. This means that when we buy a mobile phone, we may be channelling money to the armed groups responsible for so much suffering and reinforcing their control over the mines and the exploitation of the people who work in them.
At ALBOAN, we want to build massive public support for our campaign, mobilising people to sign our petition to persuade our political representatives and companies to regulate.
And at the same time needing help to support projects that improve the lives of people displaced from their homes by armed conflict.
We want a conflict-free technology. You join?
Regulating the trade of conflict minerals.
The strain on natural resources has been increasing over the past few decades due to economic globalisation and the growing levels of consumption across the globe. The fight to take control of these resources in politically unstable zones such as Colombia, Honduras and the Democratic Republic of Congo mean the local population’s human rights are violated more frequently.
ALBOAN, together with other organisations in civil society coordinated in international networks, has been demanding the regulation of mineral trade in conflict zones. At present, there are some international regulations that put forward ethical principles for improving companies’ transparency and accountability. Our challenge is to turn these principles of voluntary compliance into mandatory laws.
What do international regulations say?
The United Nations
In order to put an end to this situation, in 2011 the United Nations approved the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which establishes:
- States’ DUTY to PROTECT human rights within their jurisdiction.
- The corporate RESPONSIBILITY to RESPECT human rights throughout all operations.
- The NEED for better access to REMEDY business-related human rights abuses.
This involves a global reference framework that defines collective responsibilities to “protect, respect and remedy” human rights. The main innovation in this scheme comes from the fact that it is the first time that companies, and not solely States or the international community, are bound to obligations and responsibilities regarding human rights.
The OCDE Due Diligence Guide
The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas is the first example of a government-backed and multi-stakeholder initiative on responsible supply-chain management of minerals from conflict-affected areas. The Guide urges companies to take a series of steps to improve the transparency of their mineral supply chains [link to infographic]. It focuses on four specific minerals: tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, although the recommendations can also be applied to other minerals that are extracted in Conflict-Affected Areas (e.g., cobalt).
How do these regulations become laws?
In the USA ☺
In the USA in 2010, the Wall Street Reform Act, also known as the Dodd-Frank Law, was approved. It contains Section 1502, which regulates the trade of the four minerals referred to in the OECD guidance (tantalum, tin, wolfram and gold). The geographical scope of the law is restricted to the trade of these four minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its neighbouring countries; however, it is mandatory for all US companies that employ these minerals and trade on the stock market.
The Dodd-Frank has had a positive impact in a number of ways. Firstly, because it has raised awareness of the links that exist between conflicts and mineral exploitation. Secondly, because it has shown that companies can make reasonable efforts to improve transparency in their supply chain – that said, as certain reports have highlighted, there is still a long way to go [link to the Amnesty and Global Witness report https://goo.gl/DH13le]. And finally because in the field it hinders the funding of armed groups through mining operations.
In 2010 the US Congress passed a law, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act. Section 1502 of the ‘Dodd-Frank’, as it is known, focuses on just four conflict minerals: tantalum (derived from coltan), tungsten or wolfram, tin and gold, and on a single geographical region, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Under this law, US companies are obliged to investigate their supply chain and report whether they use minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or neighbouring countries.
The Dodd-Frank has had a positive impact in a number of ways. Firstly, because it has raised awareness of the links that exist between conflicts and mineral exploitation. Secondly, because it has shown that companies can make reasonable efforts to improve transparency in their supply chain – that said, as certain reports have highlighted, there is still a long way to go [link to the Amnesty and Global Witness report]. And finally because in the field it hinders the funding of armed groups through mining operations.
In Europe ☹
In March 2014, the European Commission published an initiative to regulate trade in the four “conflict minerals” outlined by OECD.
The amendments to the regulation proposal presented by the European Parliament in 2015 rectified the model of voluntary certification initially proposed by the Commission, and committed to creating a law binding all companies participating in the supply chain. Along with the geographical scope of the law, this was viewed as promising by civil society. [link to our post (in Spanish)]
However, the negotiations moved over to the Council, and from there the Member States declared themselves in favour of limiting the scope of the law (reducing the number of companies affected) and diluting the concept of “corporate responsibility” as it is outlined in the OECD Guidance [link to our post (in Spanish)].
The negotiations are expected to reach a conclusion in the middle of 2016. You can follow this process in our news section [http://goo.gl/w0Hwrj] and become involved in the demands of the European coalition of NGOs, of which ALBOAN forms part, to ask our governors for a mandatory law that effectively puts an end to this dramatic situation.
Civil society in alliance with ALBOAN ☺
European civil society organisations have responded to the draft EU legislation by urging governments, members of the European Parliament and the European Commission to make the regulation mandatory, obliging companies by law to ensure that their products are conflict-free. In the coming months, they will be seeking support and collecting signatures for their petition to persuade their political representatives to strengthen the proposed regulations. At stake on the success this campaign are the lives and livelihoods of the people of eastern DRC.
Now you can sign against illegal mining for conflict-free technology.
Other ways of collaborating:
- Sharing and disseminating the campaign on social media accounts (links to networks).
- Join the campaign for the collection and recycling of mobile phones (link to Mobiles for the Congo).
- Raising funds to support Humanitarian Action projects in the region that help displaced people and refugees fleeing the conflict in DR Congo (links to fundraising pages).
- If you are an educator, enhance your training by taking the campaign to your group or education centre and familiarise yourself with our education materials (link to education materials).
More about conflict mineralsBreaking the links between natural resources and conflict: The case for EU regulation – the civil society viewpoint. If you want learn more about conflict minerals Breaking the links between natural resources and conflict: The case for EU regulation.
28 European and global non-government organisations are urging the European Commission to adopt legislation that requires European businesses to manage their supply chains with due diligence, in order to ensure their involvement in the production of or trade in minerals is not fuelling conflict or human rights violations.
This legislation should, at least, comply with international norms agreed by the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and should also incorporate the principles of the European Union’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.