Bipartisan Leadership on Conflict Minerals

Rick Goss photo

Four U.S. Senators – two Democratic, two Republican – have joined in introducing a Senate resolution calling for stronger diplomatic engagement to bring peace to the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., and Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., have united to send a clear message that a lasting solution to that region’s chronic conflict must be primarily driven by focused government engagement and supported by businesses and civil society.

This resolution puts forward smart policy approaches and can serve as a guide for U.S. and international engagement with the DRC and throughout Central Africa. 

Importantly, it is the same message that I recently delivered to a House subcommittee examining the implementation of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals disclosure and reporting requirements.  These requirements are intended to foster responsible supply chain practices for products that utilize minerals and metals from the region.

While the federal requirements have generated some positive effects, they have also resulted in unintended and unwelcomed consequences for at-risk populations in the DRC.  Given the history, scope and complexity of the political and military conflict in Central Africa, private sector approaches on their own miss the mark in providing a path toward lasting peace and security.

The conflict minerals reporting requirements are resulting in greater supply-chain transparency across economic sectors, and the provision has helped to convince regional governments to engage more fully in mining sector reforms.  However, the less-told story is that many companies are now avoiding the region altogether because of the heavy burdens the requirements place on responsible companies that want to remain in the region.  This development has had serious consequences for hundreds of thousands of local residents for whom mining is the only form of subsistence.  There is less demand, resulting in fewer jobs and lower wages.  The United Nations reports that, even as security has improved at some major mining centers, legitimate exports of tin, tantalum, and tungsten from the eastern DRC have all but halted.  Meanwhile, black market and other illicit activities continue apace.  In certain areas, food, medicine and medical care are scarce, prices have soared, and school enrollments have dropped sharply.

This is due in part to new federal requirements – enacted as part of the 2010 financial reform laws -- that focus so heavily on the private sector’s role in the region.  This near-exclusive focus on the private sector, however, diverts crucial attention away from the indispensable role of governments in addressing the endemic political, security and humanitarian crises in the region.

That’s why this bipartisan resolution is important.  It is a first step at resetting the balance in DRC engagement.  The DRC ranks last (187th out of 187 countries) in the U.N. Human Development Index, and has been riven by ethnic and political conflict for generations. Lasting peace will not be found at the end of corporate disclosures and mounds of paperwork; lasting peace will only come from the concerted efforts of the international community, the private sector and civil society to address the core problems in the area.  For our part, the tech sector will continue to work with this broader alliance for peace and stability in the region.

We welcome the bipartisan Senate resolution, and hope that it focuses attention on much-needed, multi-pronged security and governance approaches for the DRC.  The Congolese people need more than reporting requirements on an SEC database.  They need urgent international action to resolve the calamity that is befalling their country.

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13 comments
  • Geraldina Sun., December 22, 1:54 AM
    Suzanne,Thank you so much for taking it upon yluroesf to answer our many questions. Thank you for being a voice. I believe I can speak on behalf of my colleagues; we mean in no way to be inflammatory to the people of Intel, and we are sorry if anyone is offended.But to my point, I have been excited ever since I heard that Intel was on board in the effort to stop the conflict minerals flow. My only issue is that I have seen no support for HR 4128 as it stands. I only see backing for a watered down version of the bill. One with loopholes and clauses that do not hold you accountable. This will take out the spine of the bill. We are looking for someone to stand up and be responsible for their supply chain, instead of redirecting the responsibility to the the next level. Secondly, I honestly appreciate your efforts to eliminate the issue by working with the government and NGOs. Yet, behind closed doors, you seek to weaken the bill, so you may not be held responsible for your supply chain. Your supply chain, your problem . We are willing to pay the extra penny. Hell, I'm willing to pay an extra 10 dollars if it means it'll cut off resources for the Congolese warlords. The objective is to have you, and other companies know where your minerals are coming from, and hold everybody accountable. Not to simply work with people to point fingers. What I'm saying is, support the bill as is, people's lives are at stake here. http://uxpghc.com [url=http://ikabwgiylxo.com]ikabwgiylxo[/url] [link=http://doeacni.com]doeacni[/link]
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  • Ihsan Sat., December 21, 4:58 PM
    Though I am truly thrilled at your sttnameet, which I have been directed to and read many times, I am troubled by the recent discussion that Intel is involved in efforts to weaken the Conflict Minerals Bill. I am also troubled by fact that efforts are being made to weaken it, while the estimated cost to tech companies is a mere penny per product to implement as written. (I emailed intel with that estimate, and asked to be corrected if I was wrong. As yet, I have not been corrected.) I don't know of any consumer who would mind that cost being passed on to them, particularly if it could help to ending the violence in the Congo, even if it included added administrative costs also being passed on. I cannot fathom why this would be considered too burdensome. I have read your sttnameet many times, and I am thrilled at your support of the bill, but feel strongly that if the bill is gutted, it will have no impact. Your support for it then would serve to make you look good, but would not in actuality help the root of the problem. I am a big fan of Intel. I am a big fan of your sttnameet. But I would love to finally hear you address these concerns. I am genuinely concerned, and I am not a copy and paste troll. For days, I feel that many of us have been waiting for you to answer. PLEASE do so. I am willing to take on the extra cost, if you could bring yourself to be willing to take on the extra burden. People's lives matter, and if the Congolese conflict were going on in any other part of the world, we wouldn't stand for it. Please begin to publicly address the concerns that many people are showing!Respectfully,Ann Richmond
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