Is Congo's mineral trade really the key to the country's conflict? - CSMonitor.com
an interesting article on conflict minerals in Congo
"When people who study the Congo for a living get together, one of the questions that inevitably arises has to do with how the conflict minerals narrative was created. Nobody disputes that minerals fuel part of the violence perpetrated by some of the armed groups operating in the eastern Congo. But we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how conflict minerals became THE story about the multilayered conflict.
I think it's fair to say that after a couple of UN reports on mining during the wars came out, this narrative was picked up on and strengthened by advocacy groups, in particular, the Enough Project and Global Witness, the latter of which spent most of the last decade researching mineral trafficking in the Congo and the former of which was at the forefront of efforts to get a rider on the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill passed that will eventually require American electronics companies to identify whether they are using DRC-sourced conflict minerals in their products. Enough's leaders believe that this legislation will play a significant role in reducing the use of conflict minerals from the DRC, which in turn will cut off a source of financing for Congolese armed groups, which in turn will lead to less violence in the region. While their latest advocacy materials acknowledge the need for more significant reform in other sectors, there's no question that the bulk of Enough's efforts have been focused on the mineral issue.
Most scholars of the DRC would agree that the mineral trade is one dimension of the conflict, but that it isn't the entire story, and most of us are very perplexed as to from where the idea that minerals are the central story originated. Why is Enough so committed to this one facet of the conflict when few, if any, regional experts believe that addressing the militarized mineral trade will stop the region's violence?
The keys to improving life in the Democratic Republic of Congo involve creating better governance, real security, stronger institutions, jobs, and a state that acts for the common good rather than the self-interest of its rulers. These are complex, elusive fixes that have little to do with the mineral trade and everything to do with governance. As an excellent new Crisis Group report on mineral supply chain regulation efforts concludes,"The control and regulate approaches are complementary, but face serious feasibility, reliability and security problems related to the more general problem of governance in eastern DRC."
Which brings us back to the question of why advocates pushed so hard for the conflict minerals focus in the first place. It was obvious to almost everyone who knows Congo that the mineral trade was not the place to start. Without the basic institutions of governance and security in place, attempting to regulate minerals is very unlikely to affect significant change.. (see article and contents above)
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