Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thoughts about conflict minerals

Readers of this blog will probably have read David Aronson's lucid Op-Ed in The New York Times a few days ago. David argues that the Dodd-Frank legislation - the "Obama law" as some Congolese refer to it - has produced a de facto embargo of minerals in the eastern Congo and has actually benefited abusive military commanders.

Efforts to render minerals supply chains more accountable have indeed had unintended adverse effects. As I have written here before, commanders such as Bosco Ntaganda have benefited from smuggling and thousands of people may have been put out of jobs. There is no doubt that the implementation of the law has been sorely wanting, and that there need to be more focus on governance and political developments in general and not just conflict minerals. Nonetheless, I still believe that the Dodd-Frank bill - in Section 1502 on the Congo - should be supported.


Here are some thoughts about David's piece.

1.  The Dodd-Frank legislation in no way mandates or supports a real or de facto embargo on minerals exports from eastern Congo.  While in general the Dodd-Frank legislation has had some foreseeable negative side-effects in the region, it is important not to confuse the law itself and its perception. The SEC regulations will not enter into effect until January 2012 at the earliest, so it would be misleading to speak of the "impact of the Dodd-Frank legislation" before the regulations have even been promulgated.  Indeed, the "de facto embargo" that the Op-Ed speaks of actually consists of two parts: a Congolese-imposed export ban on minerals (September 2010-March 2011) and decision by the main electronics lobbying body in the U.S. (the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition) to stop buying minerals from the Congo that have not been tagged or traced (April 2011-now).

The Dodd-Frank legislation did not directly lead to these initiatives, nor does it require such bans or embargoes.  Instead, it requires companies to state publicly what they have done to implement due diligence with regard to Congolese minerals.  While it is true that the fears and interests of various parties could have been better managed by the U.S. and Congolese governments – the minerals industry in particular has been taking a hard-line position in defense of its interests – this does not undermine the validity of the law itself.  In fact, it demonstrates the potential power of the law to induce real reform, and the importance of engaging with companies now to ensure they do not misunderstand the intent and purpose of Dodd-Frank.  Many analysts in fact believe the EICC somewhat cynically is taking this extreme de facto embargo stance to try to water down Dodd-Frank and delay its due diligence measures as much as possible.

2.  David’s suggestion that the legislation is out-of-date, arguing that most Congolese rebel groups have been integrated into the Congolese army, does not accurately reflect the reality on the ground.  According to the United Nations' most recent report (June 7, 2011) on these rebel groups, at least a dozen rebel groups remain active in the Kivus and many derive considerable profits from mining.  David is correct in suggesting that some Congolese army commanders have benefited through smuggling, but both the SEC and the U.N. specifically include the Congolese army in their initiatives and require due diligence to detail any involvement of Congolese officers in the supply chain.

In general, David seems to imply that doing nothing would have been better than pushing for greater transparency.  However, as various United Nations and NGO reports (including reports by Eric Kajemba and other Congolese activists) have explained in depth, the link between armed groups and mining remains strong – and delinking that nexus remains key to broader reform efforts in the region.

3.  The Op-Ed discounts the positive impacts of Dodd-Frank.  It places an emphasis on the short-term negative impact of how the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Congolese government have immediately responded to the Dodd-Frank legislation.  However, there also have been positive developments due to the push for transparency.  The Congolese army has withdrawn from some of the largest mining areas, including the Bisie tin mine, the largest tin mine in the region which produces over 70% of all tin from North Kivu province.  In addition, some large multinational corporations (Malaysia Smelting Corp and Rajesh Industries) have expressed an interest in investing in large-scale industrial mining in the Kivus and have said they would cater to western markets and would invest in certification and traceability initiatives.  While these promises have not yet fully materialized, and industrial mining carries with it risks of its own, it is a step in the right direction. Furthermore, industry leaders such as Apple and Motorola have come up with detailed certification and supply chain due diligence plans that demonstrate their ongoing commitment to purchasing in the region.

4. The Op-Ed give the impression that all Congolese oppose the Dodd-Frank legislation. This is misleading.  As recently as May 2011, a group of over 50 Congolese NGOs, together with over a dozen US and European NGOs, expressed their support for Dodd-Frank and urged for its rapid and thorough implementation. Since the beginning of the war, Congolese groups have expressed their concern about the link between mining and conflict and have pressed for action, including transparency, due diligence, and certification initiatives.  Even the activists that Aronson quotes in his piece, Eric Kajemba and Didier de Failly, despite their complaints with regards to Dodd-Frank, recognize that the law is a reality and they are now talking to the U.S. government to find ways to better implement it.  I interviewed Kajemba only last week in this space, and Kajemba said he supported the spirit of the Dodd-Frank legislation but expressed deep concern regarding the way it has been perceived and implemented so far.

This sentiment is echoed not only by large advocacy groups such as the Enough Project and Global Witness, but also the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations. In fact, the U.N. Group of Experts in their report of June 2011 said: "Since its development in 2010, this United States legislation has proved an important catalyst for traceability and certification initiatives and due diligence implementation in the minerals sector regionally and internationally."  This sentiment has been echoed by many groups, both Congolese and others, who have officially submitted their opinions to the SEC for them to take into consideration while they draft the regulations.  The authors of Section 1502 of the legislation also consulted with a variety of Congolese groups and received their support in drafting the bill.

5.  Efforts are currently underway to see how Dodd-Frank and the OECG guidelines can be implemented, the financing of armed groups undermined, while boosting transparent investment in local mining communities and livelihoods.  In particular, the U.S. government is working with international partners and industry members to implement a dual-stamp system – one in the eventuality that companies can determine their products are “conflict-free,” but also one in the immediate term in which companies can state they are “due diligence compliant.”  This dual system would help ensure that companies working to fulfill the spirit of the Dodd-Frank legislation and to mitigate any possible use of conflict minerals in their supply chains are not penalized for not immediately becoming “conflict-free.”


Nell Okie said...

Thank you very much, Jason!

Jeff B said...

It was entirely foreseeable (and in fact, entirely foreseen) that the proposed legislation would lead to a "de-facto export ban" - which was actually reported by Reuters in 2009. The simple economic argument for EICC to disengage from the region is easily described and obvious (it's cheaper than dealing with complex traceability issues that companies aren't equipped to handle). GW and Enough both downplayed and shrugged their shoulders at the suggestion that the legislation could have severe unintended consequences - the best counterargument they could make being paraphrased as "that won't happen because we'll talk to them (the companies)".

texasinafrica said...

"The Dodd-Frank legislation did not directly lead to these initiatives, nor does it require such bans or embargoes."

Come on, Jason. We all know that the legislation didn't require a ban, but both Kabila's ban and the EICC ban clearly came about only because the legislation was passed. Would either step have been taken had it not been for the legislation's passage? It was an unintended consequence, yes, but it was also a direct consequence. The fact that the regulations haven't yet gone into effect doesn't matter; these responses came about because the legislation exists.

Also, what about the very serious effect on miner and community livelihoods? I don't know how many people are out of work, but it's at least 50,000 and probably many more. This was one of the primary foci of Aronson's analysis and there's little evidence to suggest that he's wrong about it. Saying "efforts are underway" to address this doesn't help those families much - they're suffering in real terms, and they're still in situations of serious insecurity given that the armed groups are still active.

Dick Matgen said...

Jason thank you for your more balanced assessment of the impact of the Dodd-Frank legislation.
I agree that David Aronson gives the impression that all Congolese oppose the Dodd-Frank legislation, but he failed to mention any interviews of women survivors of sexual violence or children enslaved in militia- or army-controlled mines. Of course, he couldn’t interview those who have died because of the mineral-fueled violence. Neither could he interview the women who will not be raped because of reduced conflict, because we don’t know who they are; they have been spared. Nevertheless, I can guarantee you that if the women he interviewed knew they would be raped if the mining continued, their opinions would be different. We should not forget that how a question is framed and how interviewees are chosen can bias the resulting data.

We all have an ethical responsibility to refuse to participate in human rights violations. The conflict minerals movement was largely motivated by an appeal to “the cell phone in your pocket” and its implied invocation of this ethical principal. When this ethical concern led to the Dodd-Frank legislation, its implications for DRC resulted in but did not cause the current hardship witnessed by Aronson. His appeal to China’s turning of a blind eye to the human rights violations and its subsequent benefit from the lack of competition is a simplistic argument prompting us to ignore the ethical imperative in favor of economic advancement.

In his opening sentence, Aronson says, “the residents of Nyabibwe and Nzibira know exactly what’s to blame for their economic woes.” I wonder if that is true. The economic causes and consequences of human behavior are complex, with both short-term and long-term effects that are often very difficult to discern, especially when we are in the midst of them. We are seeing this right now in the U.S. with our own economic turmoil. In my opinion, the hardship resulting from an economic downturn in the mining sector in DRC really lays bare, not the failure of U.S. legislation, but the failure of the Congolese government to protect its citizens and their livelihoods. Aronson touches on this point in his comments regarding the legacy of Mobutu Sese Seko, but then fails to see the implications of his own comment. General Bosco Ntaganda’s profit resulting from the current circumstances is not the result of U.S. Legislation -- he will find some way to benefit from any circumstance so long as national and local governments allow and participate in rampant unrestrained corruption.

Jason Stearns said...

@Laura/TIA - Thanks for chiming in. Yes, the push for greater transparency has led more or less to a boycott (some companies are still exporting). But nothing in Dodd-Frank 1502 inherently requires such a boycott; the boycott ensued due to the maximalist position companies (and, to a certain extent, NGOs) took with regards to the law.

The screw-up of the US government and others has been in the implementation - the lack of cushioning of the blow, the lack of certification mechanisms on the ground to allow for transparent trade. I have moaned and complained about this many times here; but this doesn't mean that we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I still think the law can do some good and be a critical catalyst for the strengthening of Congolese institutions and the demilitarization of mines that we all care about.

I fully agree with David that these action have caused a lot of pain for local mining communities. That's awful and the US & Congolese government should have thought of that. But what do you think should have happened? I know you want SSR (as do I) and the governance reform. But we have been yelling and shouting about that for at least 5+ years now. For all its flaws, the Dodd-Frank approach has shifted incentives for local politicians and businessmen so that institutional reform and demilitarization makes economic sense for them.

Peter Rosenblum said...

Jason went pretty easy on David Aronson. Many of us have struggled during field research, when the most recent grievance overwhelms all others. It makes sense for the people we encounter, but long-time Congo watchers presumably have a sense of context. David Aronson seems to have lost all perspective. The Eastern Congo was not 'devastated' in the last six months and certainly not by the US Congress.

Anonymous said...

Come on texas “but miners who were taking home $1 a day....” Tin $23800 a ton, Tantalum $130 a lb, Tungsten APT $460 a metric ton and gold $1737 per oz.

Of course you are going to have insecurity in mining areas when you have a huge multiple of mining wages going to support the local armed thugs government, rebel or just bandits.

If a charity was asking for money but nine out of ten dollars went on corruption and weapons you would be first to explain how insane this was on your blog.

The biggest beneficiary’s of even a partial cleansing of the DRC mining trade are the people of these regions who will see a lot more of the money even assuming a still highish level of corruption.

If you were thinking rationally and morally you would not be trying to slow down progress or kill Dodd Frank.

Any slow down on Dodd Frank you are just extending the length and the depth of the economic dislocation you are pointing out.

If people succeed in killing it the most likely result is a return to business as usual with more violence and less security with the communities in the mining areas on the front line.

Probably wasting my times making these comments though as you do not seem rational with any subject connected to John Prendergast which is ironic when you have made the point before that issues are more important then personalities.

As for you trying to to rise the spectre of conflict between the DRC and Rwanda due to conflict mineral rules....

texasinafrica said...

Jason, thanks for your reply. I think our difference of opinion in whether this was an "effect" of Dodd-Frank or not is mainly semantic as we both agree the boycotts wouldn't have happened without the law's passage, right?

I think it would have made a lot more sense for the approach to have started at the level of trying to legitimize the mines through pressure on Kabila rather than trying to reduce demand for Congolese minerals. That's admittedly an extremely complicated way to do it (especially on the question of demilitarizing the militarized mines), but it would have avoided the livelihoods problems we're seeing now, and would not have interrupted operations at non-conflict mines.

Jason Stearns said...

@Laura - Merci, I think we agree on most of this: Dodd-Frank certainly led to the EICC position and probably to Kabila's export ban. So there is a very close link, and the US/DRC gov should have better thought this through.

As for Kabila demilitarizing the mines - yes, it would have been better if it hadn't come to this. But all the finger wagging has had no impact on the GoDRC unfortunately.

joe b said...

The situation was clear long before Dodd-Frank. Revenues from mineral trading were helping finance the conflict. Everyone knew it. However, attempts to change behavior got nowhere. Kinshasa was unwilling/unable to do much. Remember there were previous, failed, attempts to clean up Bisie and ban mining in certain areas... The comptoirs continued to plead ignorance and play the victim card. And the electronics industry dragged its feet as long as possible...until their complicity in a dirty trade was widely publicized.
If we can all agree as a starting point that the situation as it stood was unacceptable -- and perhaps we can't -- and that pressure prior to Dodd-Frank had yielded little in the way of results -- I think we can -- clearly regulation of some kind was required.
Yes, of course Dodd-Frank precipitated the minerals ban, the negative effects of which are undeniable. But who gets the blame? Congress? I'm not sure I agree. Having passed the law, the U.S. could certainly have done more to help with implementation. However, where is Aronson's righteous indignation when it comes to the smelters and electronics industry, which for years profited from a minerals trade they knew benefited warlords. In spite of a rather generous grace period, they've done little to construct the mechanisms that would allow for trade to continue, choosing instead to whine, look elsewhere, and allow a major pillar of eastern Congo's economy -- not to mention a rare lifeline for its suffering people -- to collapse.
Things are bad in the east these days, yes indeed. But Aronson's opinion piece is not about highlighting these difficulties. It's about assigning blame. And in that respect, I think he's got it wrong.

babsie said...

What is so special about the Congolese mineral trade? We know that conflict in the Congo is funded by many other sources! Any serious analyst would not discount the role of state agents in that conflict (arms, etc): This is public knowledge, the UN reports have good evidence to that effect.

The Congo issue is largely one of extreme “state collapse”, the absence of a legitimate state and the inadequacy of its coercive power to enforce security and any meaningful social contract.

In 2010, total trade between Uganda and the DRC alone (both formal and informal) reached US$ 340 million. This figure is suggestive of how much trade actually goes on, separate from the mineral trade. Is this figure any less contributory to the conflict?

The enough project is borderline pointless if the following anecdote were to be considered:
“If Uganda was aware that some the financing of a tractor plant in Mexico partly came from illegal proceeds from cocaine trade which doubtless claims countless young lives on the streets of most major Mexican Cities, would/should Africa blanket boycott Texan Tractors or any other products which are in one (unclear) way or the other, linked to the illegal drug trade?”

Maybe we should!, maybe we should get targeted sanctions against that company. Blanket sanctions against Mexico would be damaging to other legitimate economic concerns who have nothing to do with gangsterism.
Any form of export ban, especially one that is imposed as an externality, only serves to weaken and subsequently eliminate any form of trading capability that economic agents have built over the decades. Activism targeted and designed to exploit the Congolese who, more often than note, have no say in decisions made about their livelihoods, is self aggrandising and does not help the DR. Congo.

The World’s attention on the Congo is welcome; Supply chains should be rationalised, that is Good, and war crimes & atrocities should never go unpunished, but let any action taken to prevent conflict be more pointed and better researched.

Jason Stearns said...

I am posting a comment for Prof. Herbert Weiss:

"In the vivid discussion about conflict minerals, a number of important points have been missed:

ENOUGH and other Western – mainly US – NGOs have to be admired and congratulated for their success in mobilizing public opinion about the terrible human rights abuses that have occurred in the Congo . This has been an extraordinary campaign since the abuses, the killings and the death toll have gone on for years without much interest in the US and these efforts have made a huge difference.

Unfortunately but understandably, the focus of this campaign has been on sexual violence and conflict minerals – both easily understood horrors and therefore excellent mobilization tools. It is “unfortunate” because the logic behind the campaign is faulty. The argument went like this: Militia groups gain money by exploiting mainly artisanal mineral mining and with that money they buy arms with which they commit violence. Therefore, no minerals, no money, no weapons, no violence. But, the logic does not jive with local conditions.

First, eastern Congo is awash with arms. They cost next to nothing. The militia do not use heavy or particularly sophisticated weapons. Therefore, arms dealers are not the problem. The mining cash is by and large not used to buy weapons. Without other restraints, violence can be expected to continue for years because the militia groups and the national army can oppress, loot and rape with impunity

The local effect of Dodd-Frank has been clearly explained especially by the interview with Eric Kajemba. How one can read this without considering it a massive indictment of the effect of Dodd-Frank on the local population puzzles me. We learn that a huge unemployment problem has been created, that the national army has taken control of mine sites and has the ability to sell the minerals through the black market. We learn that areas that were dependent on the mining transport – small planes – for their basic supplies no longer receive them etc etc.

Kajemba also points the way that should have been the focus of the campaign in the US and Europe; pressuring Kinshasa to take security sector reform seriously, indeed reforming Kinshasa – I know not a good mobilization tool and pretty hopeless, but better than robbing people of their jobs and seeing them transferred to a corrupt, oppressive army.

Finally, the question that none of the partisans of Dodd-Frank have seriously taken up is what do all these unemployed miners now do? I had occasion to speak to an ENOUGH representative who informed me that they had “joined the agricultural sector”. Really? I find that very hard to believe. We do not have anything like real research on this question but it is crucially necessary.

On a recent trip to the Congo – albeit not the east – I tried to get some information on this and learnt from a very reliable source that in at least one instance, a small Mai Mai group in one of the now paralyzed mining areas has grown from about 30 members to over 150.

Should further research confirm this case as a trend we will truly have acted like the sorcerer’s apprentice! Instead of reducing militia activity and violence we shall have increased it.

Herbert Weiss"

Anonymous said...

As an activist with Enough, I can say that this conversation is appreciated and I can assure you we also believe deep reform in Kinshasa is key to a better future for the Congolese.

I can also assure you that we cannot build a deeper, broader constituency for the Congo without the cellphone/computer/conflict/rape narrative. Just try going into Starbucks and having a conversation about governance problems in some far away land. Trust me, it won’t go over well and as a result we won’t have the people power we need to pressure the US government to engage in the Congo. If those of you hear have a better way at mobilizing Americans to support this cause please do share it.

Professor Weiss poses a question that I believe is a good one but, in my view, its answer lies in implementing this law- like all laws- and since that process isn’t complete in either the US or the Congo its a moot point.

I believe another question we all need to try to grapple with is what will change the incentives in Kinshasa to “get serious” about reforms? And by reforms, I don’t simply mean in the security and justice sector but the entirely of the political system. It goes without saying that we would not have rebellions, counter rebellions, militia growth, official corruption, unofficial corruption and the smorgasbord of “state collapse” if ALL Congolese trusted their government. The Kenyan example- devolution as opposed to decentralization- is worthy of examining as an example of these reforms.

I have longed believed that a means of changing behavior in Kinshasa is pressuring Congress to force the IMF, World Bank, etc to link any and all aid to the Congo to clear governance benchmarks. The carrot would be more aid than its receiving now from American taxpayers and the stick would be withholding all funds that are not of a humanitarian nature to the regime. And since we may find ourselves with a Republican and more conservative Congress in next year’s election, this may find more willing adherents in that body.


Marcia Narine said...

Trying to get transparency in a supply chain where there is corruption makes no sense. While corporations can't put their heads in the sand and fail to ask the right questions and perform appropriate due diligence, there needs to be the right infrastructure in place first. Dodd-Frank, while while intentioned, was hastily enacted and as written, won't be as effective as it could have been had it been enacted with the input of the international community and the Congolese have been trying to provide input. As a former compliance officer for a supply chain company, I know that without an infrastucture, any due diligence process is doomed to failure, even if you wanted to comply and even if there weren't the other barriers to contend with.

Unknown said...

THANKS...I have been catalyzing my personal circle of friends around the issue of Conflict Minerals since October. Aronson's piece felt like a kick in the gut. After I consulted with my Congolese friends here, reviewed my own research and began working on my own blog I calmed way down. I was cleaning my inbox and discovered an email from the Enough Project which had links that directed me here and to their response on the Huffington Post. Thorough clarity on this issue is critical when galvinizing and mobilizing the support of my friends, as well as, the larger world again I say THANK YOU

GlobalGramma said...

To Prof. Herbert Weiss:

Who ever said that militia's mine only for money to buy weapons? The fact is that militia use terror to gain and maintain control of mining territory.

They mount repeated attacks in areas where minerals are discovered, burn families out of their homes, mutilate, murder, behead and rape ... and wallah, the locals are gone, the territory cleared, within a few months. They are free to mine, or set up mining operations which they then "tax."

I doubt that villagers who have been subjected to such terror strongly oppose the conflict minerals legislation. Or that some temporary, unintended economic displacements merit putting aside our best efforts to interrupt that system.

GlobalGramma said...

And thank you, Jason, for a thoughtful and balanced discussion of this important issue.

Anonymous said...

Just as the multinational mining companies and the phone companies measure risk before investing in a country or dealing in resources from a country such as DRC so the individual miners measure their risks before taking on the dangers of artisanal mining.
It no more likely that the miners will move into agricultural than it is that the other players will.
What the miners are asking for from the international community is aframework for working in safer mines under better conditions with a more equitable sharing of the fruits of their labor. Maybe it is time we begin listening to the miners.


Jeff B said...

On the point that "the USG should have thought this through" - it's not as if Global Witness and Enough don't share in this responsibility, although you'd never guess it now from reading the comments. The advocacy groups ignored feedback on their draft legislation saying that it would effectively lead to an export ban. It's important to remember that the advocacy groups wrote the bill directly, and lobbied it forward cloaked in words like “rape”, via contacts on the Hill with expertise neither in mining issues nor in Africa. The advocacy groups particularly refused to consider another approach proposed from the field, which was to engage with the EICC and build a public-private partnership to get the USG and the private sector's interests in line to improve supply chain verification. That's not aggressive enough for the advocacy groups: it implies that private sector actors aren't agents of the Devil, and that Embassy workers aren't spies trying to secretly take over control of African mineral supplies. It doesn't fit the advocacy narrative. But legislation along this line, backed up with an appropriation or authority to move funds from other activities, would have been a move forward. The EICC was ready to follow a donor lead and partner on an initiative, but not without the political cover of a government lead. Unfortunately the people in the field can't provide this kind of un-sanitized feedback directly to their counterparts on the Hill (it goes through legislative affairs) and so amazingly, the advocacy groups have direct access to legislators that the executive branch can't match - the advocacy groups simply had better access than anyone in the field to the legislators in this case.

The advocacy groups refused to consider any other option than THEIR idea for a ‘disclosure requirement’ (now the 'Obama law'), which puts the full burden for developing traceability systems in the Kivus on electronics manufacturers. Why they refused to see that a company acting logically would ask their supplier not to source from Central Africa, as opposed to developing a supply verification system in the Congo Basin, remains a mystery. The Congo conflict is a deeply complicated situation, and clearly not as simple as the ‘mineral conflict’ fueling rape and atrocities that the advocacy groups describe on the Hill. Asking (in the guise of a ‘disclosure requirement’) for the electronics manufacturing industry to solve the puzzle of developing a supply verification system in that context, when it’s much easier and cheaper to shop elsewhere, is absurd.

Jeff B said...

@Catherine's comment that "I can also assure you that we cannot build a deeper, broader constituency for the Congo without the cellphone/computer/conflict/rape narrative" is extremely revealing, as it shows that this narrative - even if it's not accurate - is just a means to an end. Whether or not it's actually an accurate explanation of the situation is not the point - they needed the "rape and lions" narrative to move their contacts on the Hill to support the disclosure requirement. The fact that the Congo conflict is only tangentially related to cellphones isn't the point. Scoring a big public smackdown of the private sector is what counts, driving publicity and donations.

On Herbert Weiss' point - It sounds exactly like Enough to say that the miners have now moved on to careers in the agricultural sector, without any reasonable justification. This is the same kind of wishful thinking that Enough counted on when they bet that the electronics manufacturers would take the "declaration requirement" as an opportunity to invest heavily in developing a verification system, as opposed to looking for other sources of cheaper and less politically-charged supply.

The key problem of the "Enough law" is that there was no funding appropriation for dealing with implementation foreseen along with the legislation, it being assumed that the companies would just decide to spend a lot of money on developing private-sector funded traceability chains, rather than finding another source of supply that doesn’t include a “disclosure requirement”. Without thinking through a way to make it work, without new resources or a mandate from Congress to shift funds from other programs, the idea was never going to work, and the advocacy groups had this feedback. So it's pretty disingenuous to see the advocacy groups chalking problems up to a lack of USG foresight when their own agenda was clear from the start. It's time to get rid of the disclosure requirement idea and move to an approach that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Jason Stearns offered some thoughts on David Aronson’s piece. I’m offering some thoughts on Stearn’s five point rebuttal of Aronson.

First, some context. We started a company with a very sizable investment between an American social entrepreneur and a Congolese partner. The company majority owned by the Congolese so that profits will remain local. The purpose of the company is to create a legitimate export vehicle for Congolese minerals that would ensure not a dime goes to conflict. It also intends to build infrastructure and thousands of local jobs and local companies to create a sustainable local economy. The company has already refused to pay any bribes to government officials and has found some to work with who put the Congo’s interests above their own.

We are buying directly from the Chiefs of many tribes, who are thrilled to have decades long contracts with us to create sustainable employment, along with building schools, clinics and local infrastructure and wages that are well above the norm. A significant portion of the profits will stay local and a very significant remaining portion will be used to create an L3C for the express purpose of funding thousands of local businesses and rebuilding the local economy.

We have one particular contract for Coltan that ensures a number of Chiefs that their Coltan would be exported every month for decades to come, 50 tons or more per month. The first shipment was to happen this month. We have had to tell them that we cannot find legitimate buyers (illegitimate or shady ones are easy to find, but we won’t engage these relationships), and that we don’t see this changing any time soon. The end result? They will either starve or sell these shipments to very people you think you are putting out of business – the war lords and criminal armies. A few of these tribes had simply been stockpiling for two years waiting for a legitimate buyer. They will not find one now.

Mr. Stearns is putting forth a lot of theory and thinking that is very far removed from what is actually happening on the ground.

Glad to respond directly to all five of his specious points if given the opportunity.

We have requested meetings with some U.S. Congress people and Senators with the intent of getting a Congressional hearing to discuss not the theory and removed arguments by Americans thousands of miles away, but the real and negative impact it is having on 100% of the people in these areas.

The collateral damage of this approach is untenable. Will you work with us?

Email me a

ChuckBlakeman said...

We are not thinking straight in any way here.

People rightly went ballistic that the government was just a few days slow responding to Katrina. But now it's somehow fine to wait around for a slow government bureaucracy with no dog in the hunt to come up with a dual stamping system while people die in the Congo? Ludicrous.

People decry the use of a drone-launched precision attack missile because it's possible at least one innocent bystander might be affected. But somehow it's fine to employ a nuclear option in the Congo that affects 100% of all the innocents, in order to root out the militia? Untenable.

We cry foul when the U.S. doesn't use the United Nations and its resolution process to force reforms in other countries, but in this instance it's perfectly fine for the U.S. to unilaterally create an effective embargo of central Africa? Why not go through the United Nations this time, too? Hypocritical.

Your thinking is irreconcilable with compassion or advocacy of the innocent.

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