In early December, Enough participated in a small gathering of organizations working on the connection between conflict and natural resources in eastern Congo, convened by the Center on International Cooperation. The idea behind the workshop was to identify points of consensus particularly related to short to medium term efforts to combat the militarization of mining. Congo specialists Jason Stearns and Steven Hege recently published a proposal that encapsulates much of the thinking from the workshop, available here.
The concept note, “Independent Oversight for Mining in the Eastern Congo? A Proposal for a Third Party Monitoring & Enforcement Mechanism,” posits the need for greater independent oversight of mining and the minerals trade as an important means of supporting wider efforts to demand increased accountability both from companies involved in the trade, as well as the Congolese institutions that are responsible for its regulation.
Importantly, Stearns and Hege underscore the importance of making this independent monitoring team a joint effort between the Congolese government and the international community, and charging it with working together with the Congolese to establish a definition for the illegal trade in minerals. Moreover, they propose merging this mechanism with the burgeoning efforts to develop a map of Congo’s militarized mines, work pioneered by the International Peace Information Service and more recently assigned to U.S. government agencies in a law passed last year. They anticipate the mechanism would cost $3-5 million annually and be funded by international donors. The proposed mechanism would eventually facilitate the handover of its responsibilities to Congolese leadership, and is explicitly framed as one part of a wider effort to formalize the mineral trade.
Given the complexities of the mineral trade and the many powerful vested interests who continue to profit at the expense of Congo’s crisis, it can be tempting to say that it’s just too difficult to do something about this problem. This proposal powerfully and succinctly suggests otherwise. It deserves to be widely read and thoughtfully considered.
Jenn Altoff contributed to this post.
Photo: Man pans for gold in eastern Congo (Grassroots Reconciliation Group/Sasha Lezhnev)