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Will the European Endgame on Conflict Minerals Put an End to Financing Rape in the DRC?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 26/10/2015 Margot Wallström
CONFLICT MINERALS CONGO © Spencer Platt via Getty Images CONFLICT MINERALS CONGO

In the Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), armed groups and criminal operators terrorize the population. Sexual violence against women is frequently used as a weapon to exert control over commerce, land, and the primary labor force in this largely agrarian region. Survivors of sexualized violence arrive daily at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. They are women and girls, even toddlers and infants, presenting with devastating injuries. The violence and corruption has born another generation of victims and survivors. Babies born as a result of rape are now young women arriving at Panzi, as new generations of victims of sexualized violence.
These armed groups fund criminal enterprises with the substantial revenues from trade in certain minerals. Mining sites and transport routes in remote areas are plagued by the presence of groups who take control over mines or transport routes, where the illegal collection of "fees" or "taxes" fund corruption. The groups are often indistinguishable from one another, as they perpetuate the cycles of violence and economic coercion to create fear, punish brave citizens who dare speak out, and prevent legitimate miners and local communities from flourishing.
The financial incentives are integral to the operations of those who continue to exploit resources. While mineral extraction and trafficking are not the primary or only reasons, driving the ongoing conflict, it is tied inextricably to the financing of those armed groups, opportunists, and criminals who are. Until there are tangible, enforced policies, bad actors will continue to target the civilian population around mine sites.
The mining industry, upstream and downstream, must identify and implement responsible policies to avoid actively funding corruption, brutality, and rape as a coordinated, destructive tool to paralyze entire communities. Good actors in the mining and electronics industry recognize that cleaning up the industry is vital to restore peace and improve the situation for the tens of thousands of legitimate miners and their families, who depend on mining and who deserve better than to be illegally taxed and oppressed by armed groups.
Continuing negotiations on the proposed EU regulation on trade in conflict minerals are a critical component to resolving the unacceptable situation in the Eastern DRC, and other nations where local populations and resources are exploited.
We welcome the strong commitment shown by the European Parliament in order to reach an EU regulation that can make a change on the ground. To end conflict and bring about peace and development, a broad approach attacking the root causes of conflict, including gender equality, improved governance and security sector reform, is needed.
It is good that the negotiations proceed. There must be stringent regulations that govern the import of raw materials when they originate in countries where trade in minerals is known to fund violence. We have an ethical responsibility to prevent the funding of armed groups and other bad actors that are destabilizing forces in their own nations, and beyond.
With the long list of proposed amendments from the European Parliament to the original proposal, there is a substantial risk the regulating process will falter and stall out. It is therefore needed from all involved parties -- the Council, the Commission and the Parliament -- to show true commitment to the men, women and children of the DRC and other countries where armed groups benefit from trade in minerals.
The European Parliament proposed a regulation with mandatory requirements to address the funding of violence, the brutal oppression of women and girls, and the devastating impact on legitimate miners and their communities. The resulting legislation should, at the very least, impose explicit and mandatory conditions on importers sourcing materials from certain areas where the financing from the sales of conflict minerals is most severe. Without a mandatory requirement, exploitation and impunity will continue.
The time has come to transform conflict minerals into minerals for development and peace. Let us therefore do what we can to bring the European regulating endgame to a constructive conclusion. To end mineral fueled violence and rape in the Eastern DRC and elsewhere, mandatory requirements are needed. We urge the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council to agree on a regulation that will help to put an end to mineral fueled violence. We cannot issue condemnations of violence in statements and resolutions alone. We must act with confidence when we are certain of making a change. This is such an action. It is a question of human dignity and honesty.
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Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden
Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director of the Panzi Hospital and Foundations, 2014 Sakharov Prize Laureate, awarded by the European Parliament

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