In the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) violent conflict continues to cause immense suffering for local people. At the same time tin, coltan, wolframite and gold, helping to fuel the conflict, find their way into our mobile phones and computers. Electronics companies and other actors are active to curb the link between the conflict and the mineral trade. The today published makeITfair report shows that these efforts are very necessary, however it also highlights that local organisations feel they are not involved properly and they do not want the situation to lead to a boycott.
The consumer electronics industry utilises a significant proportion of the global supply of several metals that are essential parts of mobile phones, computers and game consoles. One of the most serious sustainability issues is when mineral extraction finances conflicts such as in the current situation in Eastern DRC. makeITfair has worked since 2007 to convince the electronics industry to shoulder their shared responsibility for this issue, and has asked the major consumer electronics brands and end-users of minerals - Motorola, Intel, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and HP among others - to take action.
"We are happy to see that some of these companies are now taking the lead in constructive solutions. However more action is needed and some companies are merely avoiding minerals sourced in Eastern DRC, something which clearly will not help the situation," states Kristina Areskog Bjurling, researcher at Swedwatch and co-author of the report.
The mining sector in Eastern DRC is of utmost importance to the local people since it brings income and necessities. A legally-operated, civil mining sector also has the potential to help stabilise the region. Recently, numerous efforts and initiatives ranging from legislation to certification have focused on the link between the conflict and the trade in minerals from Eastern DRC. The makeITfair project, however, deplores the lack of communication with local stakeholders when formulating what should be done. The report entitled ‘Voices from the inside’ presents local views on mining reform in Eastern DRC. Although civil society groups welcome policy makers who are trying to ‘clean up’ the mining business in Eastern DRC, they want to have a stronger voice in the debate and more input into the initiatives that are currently taking shape.
"When high level institutions and industry are busy drawing up standards, local views and priorities are in danger of remaining unheard. The makeITfair project wants to channel the voices of people and civil society in Eastern DRC," says Päivi Pöyhönen, researcher at Finnwatch and coauthor of the report.