Central African Leaders Sign Conflict Minerals Pledge

by Jordan Richardson on December 16, 2010

The tale of conflict minerals is hard to hear. My humble coverage merely scratched the surface of the horrific reality of the coltan trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while other worthier reports from the likes of TIME and the wonderful Enough Project advocacy group have shed more light on the subject.

And now, a small measure of progress has kissed the horizon on the forehead.

On Tuesday, leaders from 11 Central African nations signed a pledge to “stamp out the illegal trade of conflict minerals.”

The pledge comes on the heels of news (PDF) out of the Enough Project that there is indeed some corporate progress being made in terms of addressing the conflict minerals problem. As you can see from the chart, electronics companies like HP and Intel have been leading the way in meeting the challenges put to them. Other companies, like Panasonic and Nintendo have “failed to act.”

The pledge was signed in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and commits represented states to a number of steps to curb the problem. Included in the steps is the implementation of a regional certification system that theoretically tracks the minerals as they make their way from the mines to Asia for smelting. Another idea is the “bag-and-tag.” This system would “tag” the minerals at their point of origin and utilize a comprehensive database to identify materials that have originated in “conflict zones.”

Partnership Africa Canada participated in the drafting of the pledge and the ideas in it. The same group was notably instrumental in crafting the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme that targets blood diamonds. “This is a declaration of heads of state. It’s a political commitment. One could say that’s a legal commitment,” Bernard Taylor, PAC’s executive director, says. “The key thing is that they commit themselves to put into place a regional certification process for these high-value minerals, and take associated steps in each country to make this happen.”

Implementing these steps will not stop the war raging in the Congo. The road ahead is far from easy, especially as the pledge and other associated actions taken by the Central African governments requires partnership with Western societies. With well-intentioned bills and legislation stuck in the Byzantine nature of politics in Canada and the U.S., this pledge remains a one-sided agreement between participating parties for the time being. It rightly sends the message that the lavish societies of the world will gladly and hungrily slurp up the cheap stuff as long as we can.

While this pledge does indicate progress on some level, it more importantly illuminates the road we must take if we still insist we are a civilized society: markets for blood minerals of any type must not exist.

We must not tolerate such products because they’re cheap and because they satisfy our incessant urges for more goodies under the tree during the holidays. We must press our governments to rapidly enact legislation that rejects conflict minerals and holds manufacturers to a higher standard. And we must press our manufacturers to make products using elements not fashioned from blood-soaked soil.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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