conflict minerals

Interesting Links

Here are some interesting links I came across this week:

  • For those of you in the academic world who haven’t heard of this free citation service, Zotero, check it out. Makes collaboration, citation and organizing your sources much easier.
  • In the face of the recent attention afforded to the London riots, this view is worth noting— China has riots more serious every week with over 90,000 such “mass incidents” of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts in 2009 alone.
  • A discussion of the meaning of statistical significance.
  • An interesting project that uses dice to help extract difficult information from research subjects. The researcher asks a question, and the subject is asked to roll the dice; if it rolls a 1, the subject is to answer “no”, no matter the correct answer; and if a 6 is rolled, the subject is to answer “yes”, no matter the correct answer. This way, the subject is protected from implicating him/herself in any wrongdoing behind a layer of safety and is perhaps more prone to answer truthfully.
  • The World Justice Project released its 2011 Rule of Law Index, that profiles indicators of law and order in 66 countries worldwide.
  • A look at the growing incidence of piracy off the coast of West Africa.
  • The Independent Medico-Legal Unit in Kenya has found that one in four Kenyans has experienced torture, that nearly three quarters of all victims never report the offense and that seventy-seven percent of all reported cases are not investigated because most incidences have been allegedly perpetrated by the police officers themselves.
  • The state of human rights in Azerbaijan seems in jeopardy after three leading human rights organizations in Baku were allegedly illegally demolished in the middle of the night, without warning by the government.
  • Foreign Policy published an interesting article by A Bed for the Night author David Rieff regarding the exaggeration of NGOs and governments during humanitarian crises.
  • Dave Algoso from the Find What Works blog wrote an article about evaluating peacebuilding.
  • More violence seems possible in Malawi, following last month’s 19 protest deaths, as new anti-government demonstrations are scheduled for August 17th.
  • An interesting discussion has been raised over the Dodd-Frank Act and its effect on conflict minerals in the DR Congo. Jason Stearns gave an interview with the founder and director of OGP a Congolese NGO in Bukavu on the devastating effects the bill was having on the local population. Laura, from Texas in Africa discussed the predictability that this would have happened. David Aronson then published a piece in the New York Times talking about how this had caused a de facto embargo of minerals, to which both Laura and Jason Stearns responded. UN Dispatch and Metal Miner weighed in, as did others, including Global Witness. The Enough Project responded to the criticism of the Bill they highly backed, and then David Aronson responded again on his personal blog. All in all, it’s not likely these parties will come to some sort of agreement in the near future. Personally, I tend to see the futility of a Bill like the Dodd-Frank Act, especially in light of the security situation in the DRC. One only has to look at the extremely flawed Kimberley Process to realize that certification schemes are extremely open to corruption and not capable of fully controlling so-called “conflict minerals”.
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More Canadian involvement in conflict minerals: Violent Attack on Peaceful Protesters Near the Marlin Mine

Hello all! Hope all is well!

My friend Rachel (who authors the fabulous blog under-mining Guatemala about mining abuses within the country) just posted the following blog post, which I had to share with you. Check out her fabulous blog if you get a chance.

Peace!

Rebecca


I received the following letter from Rights Action today concerning an attack on peaceful campesinos protesting the lack of compliance with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine, in Guatemala.

Below it, I have included 2 letters I drafted quickly in response. Feel free to copy-paste the first, and send it to Goldcorp (addresses included). Then forward it to the government and, if you like, include the second letter I include below.

URGENT CONCERN FOR SAFETY OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS OF SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACÁN FOLLOWING PEACEFUL PROTESTS
We denounce the human rights violations and abuses committed today against peaceful protesters in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala.  The protest, demanding compliance with precautionary measures ordered by the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights regarding the Marlin mine, took place without incident during the day.  In late afternoon, participants returning from the peaceful roadblocks were reportedly confronted and attacked by community development council (COCODE) members and mine workers in San José Ixcaniche.
According to participants in the protest, Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; one bus including approximately 40 men and women have been illegally detained and some beaten in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  As this alert is being written, they remain detained.  We are deeply concerned that the lives of human rights defenders are at risk.
Contact has been established with the local Human Rights Procurator’s (PDH) office, the local Presidential Commission for Defense of Human Rights (COPREDEH) and police, as well as national and international organizations to report these acts.
We ask you to stay alert and be ready to respond when more information and action requests are available from local organizations supporting communities resisting unjust mining in Guatemala.
In solidarity,

Francois Guindon – pancho@nisgua.org – +502 4014 7804
The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, USA
Cynthia Benoist – collectifguatemala3@gmail.com Collectif Guatemala,
France Jackie McVicar – jmcvicar@gmail.com Breaking the Silence, Canada
Grahame Russell – info@rightsaction.org  – +502 4955 3634
Rights Action, Canada/USA

Here are two letters I drafted quickly in response. Feel free to copy-paste the first, and send it to Goldcorp (addresses included). Then forward it to the government and, if you like, include the second letter I include below.

Send to Goldcorp CEO: Chuck.Jeannes@goldcorp.com

CC: Kim.Keras@goldcorp.com,
Tim.Miller@montana.com.gt,
Dina.Aloi@goldcorp.com,
david.deisley@goldcorp.com,
Jeff.Wilhoit@goldcorp.com,
Directors@goldcorp.com,
jamess@montana.com.gt,
lisa.wade@montana.com.gt

Dear Mr. Jeannes,

I am very concerned with the events I’ve just heard of, that occurred today near the site of your Marlin Mine, in Guatemala.

I understand that an outbreak of violence occurred this afternoon against a group of primarily Mayan-Man campesinos, peacefully protesting the fact that neither your company nor the government of Guatemala has yet complied with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s mining operation.

Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; one bus including approximately 40 men and women have been illegally detained and some beaten in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  I am deeply concerned that the lives of these individuals who remain detained are at enormous risk.

Whether or not your mining operation is directly linked to this latest bout of violence, the indirect link is clear, and I await your response on how you are mitigating this violent situation. Further, I am joining the chorus of voices within Guatemala and international who are calling for a suspension of the Marlin Mine.

Forward the above letter to Leeann McKechnie, Canada’s ambassador to Guatemala, who can be reached at:

karin.reinecke@international.gc.ca,
jennifer.chacon@international.gc.ca,
gtmla@international.gc.ca

CC:

info@gg.ca,
DMousseau@gg.ca,
HarpeS@parl.gc.ca,
cannol@parl.gc.ca,
kent.p@parl.gc.ca,
ducepg@parl.gc.ca,
laytoj@parl.gc.ca,
emaytowin@greenparty.ca,
ignatm@parl.gc.ca,
RaeB@parl.gc.ca,
LalonF@parl.gc.ca,
DewarP@parl.gc.ca,
bagnell.l@parl.gc.ca,
days@parl.gc.ca,
julian.p@parl.gc.ca,
SorenK@parl.gc.ca,
Allison.D@parl.gc.ca,
Marketa.Evans@international.gc.ca

Dear Ambassador Leeann McKechnie,

Please find below the email I have sent to Goldcorp, expressing my concern over the violence a number of peaceful protesters near the Marlin Mine faced this afternoon. They were protesting the fact that neither the company nor the government of Guatemala has yet complied with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s mining operation.

Immediately following their peaceful protest, Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; and one bus including approximately 40 men and women was illegally detained in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  I am deeply concerned that the lives of these individuals who remain detained are at enormous risk.

In addition to my concern for these individuals’ personal safety, I am shocked and dismayed by the failure of your embassy, and of the Canadian government at large to urge this Canadian company to comply with the May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

I await your response on how you are working to ensure the safety of these  peaceful campesinos. Further, I ask that you join the chorus of voices both within Guatemala and internationally who are calling for a suspension of the Marlin Mine.

Sincerely,

This week in conflict…

I decided to start a new type of post on a Peace of Conflict reviewing conflict situations in the world on a somewhat weekly basis. I figured, I read this stuff every week anyway– I might as well share it with readers in condensed form.

Here’s some of what’s happening in the world of conflict this week:

World

Asia

Europe

  • A bomb explosion in a Ukrainian church killed one person and injured 8 others. Officials are so far keeping quiet on suspected responsibility for the bomb as they investigate.
  • Germany has charged a suspected former Nazi guard with helping to murder 430,000 Jews at a death camp in Poland during WWII. The 90 year old will also testify against suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk. Samuel Kunz denies all charges and of ever working as a prison guard for the Nazis.
  • A Russian police officer, tired of the constant corruption within the policing system, appealed to Putin for action via YouTube only to be immediately fired, arrested and charged last November. He recently gave the New York Times a tour of some luxury homes of top ranking police officers as he now regularly speaks out about the corruption within the force.
  • Shootouts in Russia’s Dagestan resulted in the death of at least five people, including a village head and a policeman.
  • Serbia asked the UN on Wednesday to review the independence of Kosovo, following last week’s World Court ruling that the 2008 secession from Serbia did not violate international law. A Serbian ex-policeman was indicted for crimes against civilians, including children, committed in Sarajevo during the 1992-5 war.

Middle East

Africa

  • 20,000 grenades were destroyed in Burundi by the Mines Advisory Group in an effort to reduce armed violence. Grenades are a popular choice for violence in the country involving nearly 22% of all armed violence registered in the country in 2008.
  • Fighting continued in Somalia with reports of at least 17 civilians being killed in fighting between the Somali government and al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, 13 militia killed in clashes in Puntland and thousands displaced. The UN welcomed the African Union’s decision to send 2,000 more peacekeeping troops into the country.
  • Former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court will remain in jail after proceedings were suspended on July 15th. Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 to his Union of Congolese Patriots. Calls for his release, after the prosecutor failed to comply with an order to turn over information to the defense were denied.
  • Mali is up in arms about the recent French-backed Mauritanian raid of an al-Qaeda base within their country, calling it an “unannounced declaration of war”.
  • Sudan’s army was accused of killing at least two civilians during a raid on a refugee camp on Wednesday and burning some of the camps full of internally displaced persons.

North America

Central and South America

What to do about blood minerals in the DR Congo.

I  may have spoken too hastily in the past regarding conflict resources in the DR Congo. My rage at the inherent abuse led me to think that boycotting and protesting companies was perhaps the best way to go. I realize now, that I was wrong. Starting with the last steps in the chain is the wrong approach to this problem.

Over the past six years, I have delved into this subject more than any other and have even gone so far as to ban all products for my personal use if I didn’t know EXACTLY where they came from and what effect they had. I still feel comfortable with this personal decision. I have become essentially a non-consumer (except for second hand goods) and I like it that way because I cannot fathom my personal choices causing pain in others and could not live with myself and my luxuries at that expense. As such, I’ve taken to growing almost all of my own food, having friends make me new clothes from reclaimed fabric or hitting the second hand shop and living a pretty austere life away from any new fangled gadgets. I have been mocked by other friends who suggest I now live in the stone age (not quite, I still have many older modern conveniences such as my laptop that I’ve had for the past 8 years– she runs just fine!). Frankly, that doesn’t bother me. I enjoy being connected to what I produce and what I consume. It makes me feel whole, but it’s definitely not a plausible life choice for everyone.

Over the past several months, it has become blatantly clear to me that boycotts will not improve the situation for those in the DR Congo, in fact, it will only make things worse for the people on the ground. Nor will creating a certification-scheme for “fair trade” products to help ban all blood minerals and metals. Lobbying governments or companies will create further awareness on the issue, perhaps bringing much needed funding for Congolese humanitarian projects, but it won’t make the lives of the people any better and it won’t stop conflict resources from flooding the market.

It’s hard for me to admit this, especially since I have so vehemently proposed such things in the past and now feel stupid for doing so. I ask myself, how did I not come to this conclusion earlier? The evidence was all there, I was reading it daily, but these conclusions made me feel helpless. Boycotting and calling the governments and companies to change made me more able to do something about the problem. Again, I feel helpless and feel like I am starting from scratch.

So what can people in North America do?

I still advocate that people should be aware of what they are purchasing. They should know that when they buy luxuries, they are affecting more than just their pocketbook. They should not over-consume, and skyrocket demand for mining and resource extraction that may cause environmental degradation, abuse or suffering. But what can they do directly about the problem?

In a country where corruption is king, and violence rampant– certification schemes are going to be corrupted. One only has to look to the Kimberley Process and the recent problems in Zimbabwe to realize that certifications schemes are not all they are cracked up to be. Until corruption and governance can be stabilized, a certification scheme is out of the question. So should we just ban all such resources from the areas of fighting in the DRC?

Criminalizing imports in an area where the majority of the population is reliant on revenues from mineral exports means that the local economy would experience rapid devaluation of their currency, suddenly making their basic needs completely unaffordable. It will also push illegal trade much further underground, making it much harder to track and people will still be subject to abuse for the sake of minerals. These minerals will still end up in our market, only they will have gotten there through much shadier means.

The new Bill C-300 on the table in Canada will open channels for victims of human rights abuses at the hands of Canadian corporations acting overseas and in theory allow them to have more access to justice. The bill would allow guilty companies to be sanctioned, their support withdrawn from Export Development Canada (EDC), as well as any investment by the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in their company shares. In practice, however, given the high risk nature and generally small size of extractive companies, they do not generally even receive EDC funding or CPP investment. Mining companies could feel the sanctions, but as the bill is a private member’s bill, it will not likely be receiving the financial resources it needs to adequately make this function-able in the first place. Not to mention that the average person living in the DRC would probably not even be aware of the existence of said bill to even begin to file a complaint. In its current form, the Bill is clearly problematic and will have little effect on the well-being of the affected population.

The American Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 is meant to push companies to report on any minerals used in their products coming from conflict areas and describe the steps they took to ensure the minerals procurement did not support arms groups. All information would be public for citizens so that they could make their purchasing choices accordingly. This will result in essentially boycotting minerals from the DRC since the cost to the companies will increase with their use and people will avoid buying from companies who use potentially conflict-laden materials. Boycotts, as mentioned above, will have devastating effects for the population. The Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 also amounts to a boycott.

Ok. Ok. Enough with the bad stuff, what will work?

It’s not that simple. What the DRC needs more than anything is good governance and security. “Without a Congolese state capable of playing its role in controlling and running affairs, how can the minerals of Kivu be de-criminalized?”

Since MONUC, the UN peacekeeping troop in the DRC,  has recently decided to scale back its mandate and reduce its troops by 2,000 to change itself into MONUSCO, the possibility of good governance in the country looks bleak. The latest UN resolution calls on MONUSCO to “support” and act “upon explicit request” from the Congolese government (one of the major human rights abusers in the country, including within the mineral trade), a move that offers no explicit details on how MONUSCO is supposed to support them or deal with abusive officers or improve the behaviour of the forces. The resolution also limits the mandate of civilian protection to only areas where peacekeepers are stationed, clawing back existing assistance. The former head of MONUC has also just retired to be replaced with the surprise choice of Alan Doss, a man with no previous UN experience, potentially leaving the already troublesome command structure weakened.

What can we do about this? Well, the UN already has the largest peacekeeping force in its history in the country, but it would take thousands more troops to really provide some semblance of stability and that is just not likely to happen.

We can petition our governments to push for greater UN presence in the country, to increase their spending to aid these endeavors and increase their arms sanctions or actually enforce them. We can push the UN to increase its mandate so it can try to actually secure unstable territory. We can push them to be more engaged with the local populations and look at ways to more effectively communicate with them (such as hiring more translators or setting up remote radio communication systems). We can push the UN to work on good governance programs, ensure active functioning justice systems, continue its Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program and thoroughly train the police or in areas where there are no police, do the job of policing to ensure security. We can also push them to rethink their approach and adopt differing strategies that would allow them to better address the realities on the ground  (Séverine Autesserre has some good suggestions)  We can push the UN to hunt down and contain the rebel movements who are destabilizing the country. We can push the international community to actually listen to local solutions and help implement them. We can push our own governments to demand accountability for the billions of dollars they give to the Congolese government each year. We can push for any of our extraction companies in the DRC who are directly committing crimes in the country to be brought to justice and actually investigate all claims made by UN and other reports that implicate any companies in criminal actions within the country. We can push the media to actually show the severity of the conflict to help increase international aid and monitor the progress and to focus more on local solutions and initiatives to the problems. We can inform people of what is happening and encourage them to push their governments and the UN as well.

And we can hope that the world will listen and respond. With enough pressure, anything is possible.

** Update: I received a thoughtful email from Laura at Texas in Africa with some great suggestions who agrees with the idea that “getting a functioning security sector, police who can and will do their jobs, collecting taxes so that salaries can be paid, and getting the judiciary working again” are a top priority.

She stated, “I’ve found that the best thing for me to do in terms of formulating a response is to support organizations that I think are doing a good job, and to encourage others to do the same.  If you’re concerned about women who are victims of rape in the region, Heal Africa, Panzi Hospital, and Women for Women all do a wonderful job of helping them to return to health and rebuild their lives.  The IRC, Doctors without Borders, and Oxfam also do good work, especially in the education and health sectors.  Supporting  NGO work doesn’t solve the bigger issues, but it does help me to feel like I’m making a small difference, even as I work to figure out these issues and educate others about them.”

She also suggested reading over Resource Consulting Services Ltd. ‘s work for ideas on how to legalize and formalize the mineral trade in the DRC. Thanks Laura for your helpful suggestions!

 

HP is trying.

It’s been almost two years that I have been pushing different computer companies to better track their supply chains in an effort to stop the flow of money into conflict zones. My pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

While I can’t entirely endorse any of the companies’ efforts, since I feel they still fall short of being fully responsible, I feel that Hewlett Packard (HP) is at least trying to change and is the closest to actually doing so. My general feeling on these companies is that they should have full control over their supply line, know whether any stops along the way are human rights abusing and stop the abuse if it is found if they truly want to consider themselves an “ethical” company. If they find abuse, they can choose to ask that supplier to stop the abuse or they have the choice to switch to another supplier. Either way, they have control over this aspect. If the supplier won’t let them in to inspect for abuse, then switch supplier. Simple. It’s fairly black and white with me when it comes to this. We, as consumers, don’t have this choice to the same extent. We don’t know who supplies which company without thorough research, and have a difficult time trying to ascertain the truth from the companies even with thorough research. They say, buyer beware, but when we see “ethical” policies on their website, we assume that it’s the truth. Sadly, in most cases I have found, it is not anywhere near the truth.

Hewlett Packard has started auditing its supply chain and making as much information on those audits available as possible. They have listed the majority of their suppliers in an effort to be more transparent. They have made voluntary promises to investigate their supply chain more closely. They claim to unconditionally support human rights on their web site. They have donated money and equipment to the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative in an effort to track the tin for their products in the DR Congo. They have also voluntarily joined on to the GeSI Supply Chain Initiative. These efforts haven’t gone completely unnoticed. HP was named #1 Best Corporate Citizen by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. It has been written up repeatedly as an “ethical” company.

The reality though, is still kind of sad. The ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative received only $600,000 for the first six months of its supply chain project. Seems like a lot of money, right? While, before you start applauding these companies for this donation, you must realize that HP, Analog Devices, Apple, Cabot Supermetals, Dell, EMC, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Motorola Foundation, Nokia, Philips, RIM, Sony, Talison, Telefonica, S.A. Western Digital and Xerox collaboratively donated this money and that within that list sit several companies who are making millions upon millions each year on these tainted supplies while already claiming corporate social responsibility.  The $600K donation works out to less than $40K per company for this initiative. Consider that a company like HP spends approximately $235 million per month on research and development of new products, you think they could invest a little more in ensuring human rights are respected in the making of their supposedly “ethical” product line. And before you commend them on reaching the top of Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Best Corporate Citizens”, realize that the Coca Cola Co. (accused of massive worldwide crimes, see also here) also tops the list for responsibility.

What it appears like to me is companies using bottom line donations to promote their image, while ignoring a larger problem in an effort to maximize their own profits. Profits should not come before people. You want to be ethical in your product line? Here’s a plan for you. Spend the money, send out auditors to each of your suppliers and their suppliers and their suppliers. Keep them there for (at least) the next year and have them report on each and every violation against human rights. If these violations start to add up, move to another supplier who can agree to your terms. I’m sure there are many other suppliers waiting in the wings wishing on contracts with a massive corporation that would be willing to take some more responsible measures to secure that contract. This is a simplification, obviously it would be slightly more complicated, but there is as far as I can see no real reason they can’t take full responsibility except for monetary and competition reasons, and frankly, that’s just not good enough. War crimes and crimes against humanity are happening for these products, and that’s not ok.

It makes no sense me to that these companies claim they are unable to control their own product line. They have the control. They just don’t want to lose profits because they do not see the competitive advantage in paying more for human rights protection. A few moments in the media of shining glory after some piddly donation has a similar effect as an actual effort. So why put the effort and money in?

Please HP, live up to your ethical promises. Keep the effort coming, and keep transparent. I want to respect you.

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