By Jonathan Hutson, USA
Conflict Minerals: Enough Project, Ashley Judd, Congressman McDermott Call on Under Secretaries Hormats and Otero to Get New Congo Strategy Right
Washington, DC — The Wall Street Reform Act required the Obama administration to develop a strategy for addressing the linkages between the trade in conflict minerals, armed groups and human rights abuses in eastern Congo by January 17. Early indications are that the strategy will not contain the critical ingredients for success: senior U.S. leadership in developing a minerals certification process, building on the lessons of similar efforts to end the trade in blood diamonds, sweatshop labor in the apparel sector, and illegally harvested timber, and leading revitalized efforts to reform Congo’s security sector.
Under Secretaries of State Maria Otero and Robert Hormats have the de facto lead in the policy process, in support of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s strong interest in ending the scourge of sexual violence in eastern Congo, driven in large part by the contestation over conflict minerals. In the aftermath of Secretary Clinton’s historic 2009 trip to Congo, the administration pledged to take a leading role in helping to end the world’s deadliest war.
“In response to the bloody wars in West Africa fueled by conflict diamonds, consumers demanded a change forcing governments and companies to find a solution. Heavy diplomatic and commercial pressure resulted in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and helped make peace in that part of the world,” said John Prendergast, Co-Founder of the Enough Project. “We want to replicate that strategy in Congo, filtering conflict minerals out of our cell phones and laptops. The only way to do that is to create a mineral certification process. And the only way we’ll get that is if the U.S. leads in its creation.”
Actor and activist Ashley Judd, who has made two trips to eastern Congo said, “In my two visits to eastern Congo, I’ve seen the ravaging impact on communities — particularly in the form of shocking gender violence against women and girls — that the pursuit of mineral wealth creates. An international system certifying minerals as conflict-free would help break the link between rape and violence, and the mineral trade that powers our cell phones and laptops. Americans as both consumers and citizens of the wider world have a crucial opportunity to feel fantastic about U.S. playing a leading role in its creation.”
Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) said, “The law passed in Congress on conflict minerals was an important first step, but I think the State Department should play a vital lead diplomatic role in convening companies and key governments together to hammer out an international certification process. Governments in the region have shown willingness to partner on the issue, but certification will need much more leadership from a senior U.S. level, if it is to succeed.”
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity