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The East African : March 17th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK MARCH 15-21,2014 35 EU criticised for weak law on conflict minerals Companies a≥e now not exp≥essly asked to disclose o≥igin of stocks By PAUL REDFERN Special Correspondent T he European Union has denied that it is lax in acting on conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo after new legislation shied away from forcing companies to disclose where they obtain their stocks from. In a statement released on March 5, the EU said that its new “integrated approach” would “stop profits from trading minerals being used to fund armed conflicts.” The EU added that its package of measures “will make it more difficult for armed groups in conflict-affected and high-risk areas to finance their activities through the mining of and trade in minerals. “The focus of the approach is to make it easier for companies to source tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold responsibly and to encourage legitimate trading channels.” However, the new proposals were immediately criticised by proponents of mandatory and more extensive transparency requirements, including Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP who is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the issue. A leading UK-based NGO, Christian Aid, said the new law proposed by the European Commission on responsible sourcing of minerals “is not strong enough to prevent European companies’ mineral purchases from financing conflict or human rights abuses,” and falls far short of expectations. “Instead of putting forward Workers at a gold mine in DR Congo. The EU has been criticised for not being tough on human rights abuses. Pic: File The proposal is tantamount to the EU saying that it’s ok for companies to choose not to behave responsibly.” Sophia Pickles, Global Witness robust legislation that would require a wide range of EU-based companies to do checks on their supply chains the Commission announced voluntary measures that will only apply to companies importing processed and unprocessed minerals into the European market.” The proposal covers compa- nies involved in the tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Campaigners warned that the Commission’s proposal — an opt-in self-certification scheme available to a limited number of companies — is likely to have minimal impact on the way that the majority of European companies source natural resources. Sophia Pickles from Global Witness said: “The proposal is tantamount to the EU saying that it’s ok for companies to choose not to behave responsibly. This risks undermining the duty states have to protect human rights, which is well-established under international law. The proposal could even be re- dundant. EU governments have already endorsed voluntary due diligence guidance developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.” “It’s absolutely critical that the EU enforces existing international standards,” said Seema Joshi from Amnesty International. Anything short of a mandatory reporting obligation for EU-based companies using and trading natural resources, will fail to prevent Europe from acting as a conflict mineral trading hub. Nor will it ensure that European companies avoid causing or contributing to serious human rights abuses when sourcing from these high-risk areas.” The proposal, which follows similar measures adopted in the United States in 2010 and in force since January, would apply pressure on more than 400 European smelters and refiners to demonstrate to their customers and the public the place of origin of their gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum. CATEGORIES Under the US Dodd-Frank Act, section 1502, ‘conflict minerals’ are defined as minerals containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold originating in the DR Congo and the adjoining countries. After mining, ‘conflict minerals’ are traded on local and international markets where smelters and refiners transform those minerals into metals. The Heidelberg Institute for International Research estimates that, together, natural resources and conflict account for roughly 20 per cent of global conflicts. Armed groups and security forces in conflict regions can finance their activities from the proceeds of mining and trading of minerals which later enter the global supply chain. Companies further down the production chain run the risk of supporting armed activities and have an interest in sourcing from such regions responsibly. The US legislation, part of the Dodd-Frank package of financerelated legislation adopted in 2010, covers the same set of minerals. It is, however, significantly, more challenging for business, imposing transparency requirements on all companies in the supply chain, including retailers. The Commission’s proposal is more extensive geographically, as it is global in scope, while the US legislation applies just to the Democratic Republic of Congo and nine of its East African neighbours. EU officials acknowledge that the Commission’s proposal is largely a reaction to the DoddFrank measure, as the US legislation applies to all companies listed on the US stock-markets, many of them European. The EU Commission says that “only 12 per cent of companies listed on EU stock-exchanges not directly subject to the US legislation refer to conflict minerals on their websites.” The best documented and known case relates to the problems in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the UN frequently reports on the devastating instability created by foreign and national armed groups generating revenues through their control over natural resources. The Heidelberg Institute for International Research estimates that, together, natural resources and conflict account for roughly 20 per cent of global conflicts. One of the objectives of the EU’s proposal is to break the link between minerals extraction, minerals trading, and the financing of armed conflicts. The root causes of the problems must be identified, the EU says, as should the triggers of conflicts and structural fragility, their dynamics, and the roles of the various actors involved. A second objective is to create a market in the EU for responsibly traded minerals that originate in conflict regions. A third objective is to improve the ability of EU operators wherever they are in the supply chain to comply with existing due diligence frameworks. Will Kinshasa’s $100m disa≥mament plan succeed whe≥e othe≥s failed? By A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Irin THE GOVERNMENT of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) plans to disarm 54 armed groups in the east of the country in the next five years. But will the third, $100 million attempt at disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR3) succeed where previous bids failed? “The future of peace and stabil- ity in the region” depends to a large extent on the answer to this question being “yes”, according to a recent paper by the Enough Project. Thousands of fighters from vari- ous groups have reported to army bases in eastern DRC to take part. They had been prompted by the surprise defeat of the M23 rebel- lion by the combined forces of the national army and the UN military mission in DRC (Monusco) in December and by subsequent warnings that other groups would soon be targeted. Armed groups have wreaked havoc with impunity in eastern DRC since 1998. Around two million people are displaced from their homes in part of the country which is suffering a chronic humanitarian crisis. The health system in particular is in a “catastrophic state” because repeated armed conflict has led to large-scale dilapidation of infrastructure and frequent interruptions of services, according to a report published on March 4 by Médecins Sans Frontières. The establishment in 2013 of a 3,000 strong Force Intervention Brigade within Monusco proved to be a game-changer because of the specialised support it lent the national army, FARDC, to crush the M23 rebels. The brigade’s aggressive use of combat support helicopters is widely seen as the decisive intervention Monusco’s adoption of un- manned aerial vehicles has greatly increased its surveillance capabilities and thereby the chances of rebel groups being defeated militarily. Fighters began leaving these 132,000 groups in large numbers after the M23 formally surrendered. Around the same time, the government began to unveil its plans for DDR3, although it had not then (and has not yet) secured the required funding from donors. This DDR operation has a pre- liminary sensitisation phase, whereby combatants host communities as well as military and civilian authorities and civil society, will receive detailed information about the entire process. The participants are to undergo Disarmed combatants between 2004 and 2008 most of the demobilisation process in locations far from their home turf (specifically, in camps in Kamina, North Katanga Province; Kitona in Bas-Congo; and Kotakoli in Equateur). “Given the lack of trust among some communities and towards the government, sensitisation will be vital to convince surrendered militia groups to leave their fiefs in order to undergo DDR in the west and southeast of the country,” DRC analyst Christoph Vogel of Cologne University’s Institute for African Studies wrote in his blog. This DDR exercise will also allow only a few participants to join the national army; most will be helped to reintegrate into civilian life. “It’s vital to learn from past experiences,” Chantal Daniels, a policy and conflict adviser for Christian Aid, said. “DDR is not new in the DRC and past projects failed lamentably.” Between 2004 and 2008 more than 132,000 combatants, including 30,219 children, were demobilised.
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