Governments and companies must redouble their efforts to implement international supply chain control standards aimed at ending the trade in conflict minerals, a new UN report suggests .
In a report published last week, the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) notes positive impacts where companies are implementing supply chain controls, known as due diligence, in more stable areas. These include improvements in mining sector governance and a rise in mineral production and exports.
However while international due diligence standards  for the mineral trade were announced by the UN and OECD a year ago, and some companies have taken steps to meet them, implementation by many firms dealing in Congolese minerals is still absent. This lack of supply chain controls is allowing militias and criminal networks in the Congolese army to finance themselves via the gold trade in particular.
“The pathway to a clean minerals trade that excludes human rights abusers and benefits the people of eastern Congo has been clear for over a year,” said Sophia Pickles, Campaigner at Global Witness. “It is critical that businesses follow the agreed international guidelines and become part of the solution to the nexus of minerals and violence in the region. Governments of countries that trade or use minerals must implement the recommendation of this report that they incorporate these due diligence standards into their own national laws.”
Many Group of Experts conclusions match the findings of a series of Global Witness’s field visits during 2011, not least regarding the role of certain Congo-based mineral exporters who have been purchasing minerals from areas where armed groups operate. These activities breach UN sanctions, as well as a regulation issued by the Government of DRC in September, which requires traders and exporters operating in the DRC to adhere to OECD due diligence guidance, or face penalties.
As yet, however, no enforcement action has been taken against these firms. The UN Security Council has not imposed sanctions on any company involved in the conflict minerals trade for years, despite abundant evidence gathered by the Group of Experts, Global Witness and others.
Information gathered by the Group of Experts reveals how powerful former rebels are strengthening their grip over parts of Congo’s minerals trade. Ex-CNDP commander General Bosco Ntaganda, indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, is orchestrating large-scale smuggling operations in full view of the Congolese authorities. Such is the impunity Ntaganda enjoys that he has been able to establish his own personal illegal border crossing through property he owns on the Rwandan border. According to the new report, Ntaganda has also been involved in the sale of real and counterfeit gold to international buyers to the tune of millions of US dollars.
“Bosco Ntaganda is a brutal commander who leads a shadow military force of ex-rebels within the national army,” said Sophia Pickles.
“Allowing him to boost his power through illegal control of the minerals trade poses a real threat to stability and the human rights of the Congolese population,” she added. “It is vital that the incoming Congolese government tackles impunity in its military head-on and brings notorious human rights abusers like Bosco Ntaganda to justice.”
For a summary explanation of supply chain due diligence, traceability and certification, see Global Witness, Congo’s Minerals Trade in the Balance: Opportunities and Obstacles to Militarisation, page 6: