In response to mounting pressure by the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and four eastern Congo-based civil society groups sent letters last month to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, calling on the SEC to quickly adopt final rules to implement 1502. Importantly, both letters ask the SEC to adopt rules that do not include phase-ins or delays in implementation.
The letter from the Congolese civil society groups stated:
A delay or phase-in period will have adverse impacts on the ground in eastern Congo. Delays violate the aim of the provision to cut off financing to armed groups, undermine efforts to reform the mining sector in the region and demilitarize eastern Congo mining areas and remove incentives for companies to quickly adopt due diligence measures as mandated by the law.
Companies, often hiding behind the shield of the Chamber and National Association of Manufacturers, are fighting hard to weaken section 1502. One way they have attempted to do that is by saying they need time to put systems in place to trace the origin of the minerals and source clean minerals from the region. Sounds convincing, however the U.N. Group of Experts on Congo first documented the connection between natural resource extraction and conflict in Central Africa, and Congo specifically, in 2000. Conflict mineral legislation was first introduced in 2008, and companies have been developing programs to trace and audit their supply chains for at least that long.
Since the passage of Dodd-Frank, regional and industry-led processes to trace and source clean minerals have increased dramatically. The Congolese and Rwandan governments have begun to take these issues seriously and are instituting measures to combat the illicit trade in minerals. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, has adopted a regional certification scheme to govern the sourcing of conflict free minerals from Central Africa. Any delays in section 1502's implementation will negate the progress made and resources spent thus far, and decrease the incentive for companies and in-region actors to conduct due diligence and implement processes to source responsibly from the region.
To be clear, addressing the conflict minerals issue is not a panacea for Congo's ills. The economics are a driver that must be addressed, because the minerals trade fuels and perpetuates the structures of violence and poor governance in eastern Congo. But we must continue to advocate for support to mining communities, promote responsible investment, and press the Congolese government to address head-on the rampant impunity and insecurity in the eastern region, which is often driven by Congolese army abuses.
One thing is certain: The Dodd-Frank Act has put the conflict in eastern Congo on the map like no other initiative before it. It took us far too long to get to this point. We owe it to the Congolese to move forward not backward.
Photo: SEC crest