The violent exploitation of natural resources has been a persistent problem in the Great Lakes Region of Africa for much of history. From rubber in the colonial period to Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum, and Gold today, the Democratic Republic of Congo and countries surrounding it have experienced significant violence in the name of resource extraction.
Since 1998, more than five million people have died in the fighting when the armies of six neighboring countries invaded the DRC following the Rwandan genocide. Millions more have been displaced, fleeing abuses by governments and rebel groups alike.
To many, this conflict may seem far removed from day-to-day life - something viewed only briefly on the evening news - but it may actually be as close to home as your pocket. Smartphones, cameras, computers, and all other manner of high tech gadgetry rely on the minerals mined in the Great Lakes Region to function. Unfortunately, the high demand for these consumer goods has not translated into economic development. Rather, the revenues generated by the illegal exploitation of the high value minerals found inside these products has been used to purchase arms and to perpetuate violence.
The conflict in the DRC is extremely complex, and likewise, PAC`s programs have evolved to address a number of interlinked issues in the region. The Great Lakes Program has four primary areas of focus:
Supporting the ICGLR Regional Certification Mechanism for Conflict Minerals
The international community has long recognized the role of mineral exploitation in conflict financing. Following an extensive research program, PAC drew on our expertise with the Kimberley Process for conflict diamonds and proposed a Regional Certification Mechanism for the states of the Great Lakes Region. The rapid adoption of this mechanism is a testament to the quality of the work, and PAC continues to engage with the governments of the ICGLR to assist them with their implementation.
Creating Conflict-Free Supply Chains of Artisanally Produced Gold
Owing to the high market price of the metal, gold is one of the most important minerals in terms of conflict financing, yet it is also at the core of the livelihoods of a great many people in the region. PAC is currently piloting a program in Orientale province with the aim of tracking gold straight from the mine site to the consumer to ensure that the gold in your jewelry and electronics is ethically produced and conflict-free.
Supporting Regional Civil Society and Natural Resource Governance
Ultimately, the goal of ending the trade in conflict minerals requires buy-in from the grassroots as well as governments. Local communities must be involved in monitoring the conditions under which minerals are extracted and traded. With a mind to this, PAC has supported the creation of a civil society platform, where NGOs can go to share expertise and recieve training in order to monitor the extractive industries for themselves.
Women, Security and Natural Resource Governance
As with most informal industries, women make up a large percentage of the workforce in artisanal mining. To date, the experiences of these women has gone largely undocumented. PAC is currently engaged in researching the gendered experience of extraction with the objective of discerning the distinct nature of women and girls’ participation in the informal mineral sector’s economy, all along the chain of custody. As well, we are working to determine how women may either benefit from or experience (further) marginalization in the sector.