Translated from French to English by AFJN
Source: Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo ( Congolese National Bishops’ Conference)
– Most Reverend Auxiliary Bishop of Kinshasa
– Excellencies, Representatives of Heads of religious denominations
– Your Excellency the Representative Office of the President of the Republic
– Honorable representatives and Senators
– Your Excellency the Representative of the Prime Minister
– Excellencies the Representatives of Ministers
– Excellencies the Representatives of the Courts and Tribunals
– Distinguished guests recognized in your qualities and respective titles
– Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press
– Dear Brothers and Sisters
My name is Jennifer Poidatz, I am in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a Representative of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) . CRS has been working in DRC since 1961. Our programs focus on humanitarian assistance and development and are implemented in partnership with many diocesan and governmental structures throughout the country.
For over a year my colleagues in the United States have worked with our colleague at the Congolese National Conference of Bishops (CENCO) to support the passage before the United States of America’s Congress of Article 1502, of US public Law 111-203, which deals with mineral sources of conflict in the DRC. We are very excited about the news that the Act was finally approved by Congress and signed into law by the American President on July 21, 2010.
We appreciate in the first place the support given by CENCO and in particular the Episcopal Commission of Natural Resources. CRS hopes that the implementation of the points covered in Article 1502 will help reduce the illegal access to financial and logistical resources of armed groups in DRC. At the same time, we remain aware of the challenges associated with implementing this article.
My goal today is to talk briefly about the implications of this law in the U.S. – focusing on the specific implications for the U.S. government, businesses and American citizens. I will also describe the actions that CRS will take to ensure proper implementation of this article.
At the level of the American Government, and within a six month period following the signing of this law, the State Department (in conjunction with USAID – the US Agency for International Development) must develop a strategy to address the links between human rights violations, armed groups, extraction of minerals associated with conflicts and their commercial exploitation. We hope that the development of this strategy will strengthen collaboration between the governments of DRC, the United States and other actors – namely, neighboring countries, the international community and the Panel of United Nations experts on the DRC. The results of this collaboration should:
- ensure the establishment of a system to monitor and stop illegal trading activity surrounding the exploitation of natural resources of the DRC that help support the activities of armed groups and human rights violations in the DRC and
- support the strengthening of systems of governance and economic institutions in order to
- improve transparency in the exploitation of minerals,
- reduce the exploitation of minerals by armed groups and
- promote local and regional development
Reading Article 1502, we understand that the U.S. Government will also develop a plan to assist companies to establish the origin and chain of supply of minerals. Similarly, the U.S. Government will define punitive measures that could be taken against those found to be in violation of the SEC reporting requirements.
The State Department must publish a “Map of mineral-related conflicts” showing areas rich in minerals, roads and commercial areas under the control of armed groups in the DRC and neighboring countries. This map will be available to the public and updated every six months. American companies that are registered with United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to pay attention to the origin of minerals and reflect on the impact of their purchases on the people of the DRC. They will be forced to disclose whether they use minerals that are mined in conflict areas in the DRC or a neighboring country. Companies that use minerals associated with conflict in one of these countries must submit to the SEC:
- A description of their efforts to establish the origin and traceability of these minerals
- An independent audit of their report
- The description of components contained in these minerals associated with conflicts, the country and, if possible, the mine of origin, and the names of the processing sites of these minerals.
Their products can be labeled “DRC Conflict Free” if they do not contain any ore from which armed groups in DRC, or in a neighboring country could profit directly or indirect. Companies will be forced to question the “refiners” as to the origin of ores. This positive pressure should lead to decrease in demand from mines in conflict zones.
I would also note that there is another very important article in the Law 111-203. This is Article 1504. This Article requires making public any commission related to the commercial development of hydro-carbon, natural gas, oil – and minerals. This article covers the stages of exploration, extraction, processing and export. It requires that all companies must submit an annual report to the SEC. This report must provide details on all payments made to foreign governments or American government – including taxes, exploitation rights, dividends and other fees – related commercial development of natural resources. In these reports, companies must submit these details for each project or, in the case of minerals, each mine. We retain this article as essential for increased transparency related to such payments and increase the capacity to ensure that companies do not divert these funds – which are important resources for the budgets of vital services like healthcare and education.
Locally, American citizens will start to see labels on electronic and other products confirming the absence of the impact on the conflict in DRC – “DRC conflict labels”. We hope that eventually there will be a better understanding of the humanitarian situation in DRC and the links between the minerals in the various products and conflict in the DRC. We hope that with increased awareness, they will think before they buy and perhaps look for the product labeled “conflict free”.
Similarly, we believe that this request for transparency will enhance and increase recognition of the important work done by civil society and nonprofit organizations which continues to provide valuable investigative data on the origin of products.
For CRS in the United States, we will continue to work with other NGOs and civil society organizations to influence the definition of new regulations of the SEC. We will do our best to ensure that the regulations of the SEC keep the spirit of Article 1502 which aims to reduce the financial resources to illegal armed groups from the sale of minerals, mining and transportation of mineral resources.
In closing, let us remember that this illegal exploitation of mineral resources remains the cause of violence or direct – at least – the indirect cause of the terrible suffering of innocent people, and also
an obstacle for lasting development and the establishment of sustainable peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kinshasa, August 2, 2010