Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Raise Hope for the Congo

The militias in the DR Congo make millions of dollars yearly by trading four minerals: the ores that produce tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. The armed groups then use this money to purchase large numbers of weapons for use in their campaign of vicious brutality against civilians. Most of these minerals ultimately end up in electronic devices such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers.   Because there is no transparency in the minerals supply chain, consumers have no way to guarantee that their purchases are not funding the militias that repeatedly carry out atrocities against civilians, including mass rape.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, signed into law in July 2010, contains Section 1502, which requires American companies to guarantee that the raw materials they use to make their products are not tied to the conflict in Congo.  This monitoring is accomplished by auditing the mineral supply chains.

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) must now issue regulations on conflict minerals, but is under tremendous industry and corporate pressure to delay the implementation of the law for three more years.  The SEC must not delay on conflict minerals regulations any longer. A postponement means delayed movement toward a minerals trade that helps rather than harms communities.  Please stay tuned to the Office of Public Witness for news of advocacy opportunities with the SEC.

What you can do:

Consumers must be able to buy conflict-free electronics in the same way they can buy fair trade coffee or not buy blood diamonds.  A system of certification would guarantee that the brutal violence in the Congo is not being financed by the purchase of electronic products.   Congo requires a system of certification, as well as the Dodd-Frank legislation’s tracing and auditing stipulation.

However, we must create consumer demand for conflict-free electronics in order for a certification regime to be successful.  The “conflict-free” movement is growing but it needs more support.  Your voice matters!

You can make an impact.  The Enough Project is currently recommending two actions -

Email the electronics industry leaders and urge them to make their products conflict-free. The message is clear: “If you take conflict out of your cell phone, I will buy it.”

Urge your school, or other institution to go conflict-free. Urge your campus or school to go conflict-free. Get your school to call publicly on electronics companies to make conflict-free computers and printers for your campus.