Remarks at Enough Project Panel on Conflict Minerals

Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs 
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Washington, DC
June 29, 2010

Thank you, John for that kind introduction. And for all the tremendous work you’ve done both inside and outside of government. Since you and Gayle founded the ENOUGH Project, this organization has been one of the strongest voices calling for the world’s attention to the exploited, the marginalized, and the dispossessed. And I’m delighted to share some of our efforts at the Department to answer this call.

In eastern DRC, the violence which now feeds off the illicit minerals trade has claimed more lives than any conflict since World War II. This is one of the great moral issues of our times.  Today, I’m glad to join this panel in a frank conversation about how all of us--in the Administration, on the Hill, in NGOs, and the private sector -- can pursue a common agenda to end the trade in conflict minerals.

At the State Department, we have drafted an action plan to guide our efforts. Our goal is to stem the flow of illicit minerals, promote legitimate trade, and protect those living in artisanal mining communities.   But this is one part of a larger strategy to engage the people of the DRC and of the Great Lakes region. The personnel of the State Department are working on good governance, political stability, human rights, and access to opportunity—the keys to unlocking the economic potential of this resource-rich land.

One key objective is to raise the public profile of this crisis and the need for action here at home. But we must also leverage our diplomatic partnerships abroad. We aim to bolster the framework for responsible trade of natural resources, bilaterally--and multilaterally as well.   And because violence won't end until the civilian population is protected and secure, we are supporting the efforts of the U.N. Mission in the DRC to achieve that goal.

We're exploring opportunities for families in artisanal mining communities not just to survive, but to thrive and live meaningful lives. We want them to be able to pass onto their children the same opportunities we would want for our own--health, education, employment, and access to opportunity. And finally, we will work with the government of the DRC so it is willing and better able to respond to the needs of its citizens.

Raising the profile

When Secretary Clinton traveled to the DRC last August, she not only drew attention to the conflict in the east, but she also drew attention to the U.S. commitment to restoring peace and security there.   Her announcement of more than $17 million in new funding to respond to gender and sexual violence and almost $3 million for recruiting and training police officers, renewed USG engagement in the DRC.

As part of our Department action plan, I and a number of other senior officials have spoken out on this issue. We've used blogs, interviews, and speeches to get the word out. A few weeks ago, I spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies about the responsible trade.

And I know Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson briefed the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding his recent trip to the DRC and meetings with President Kabila.

Just yesterday, I returned from the G-8 Leaders’ Summit in Canada. As a Sherpa in the Summit process, I pressed hard to highlight the illicit exploitation of minerals in the Eastern Congo in the Summit Communique. Specifically, the G-8 Leaders urged the DRC to enhance governance and accountability in the mining sector. This the first statement issued by G-8 leaders on the issue of responsible resources trade. And with it should come more scrutiny of the DRC’s progress in this area.

In the months to come, we will expand our efforts to reach new audiences and raise awareness of the human cost of this trade.

Our public engagement serves two goals:
the first is to highlight the Administration's priorities and the second is to engage more people in this important work.

Government doesn't have all the answers. If it did, we wouldn't be here. What it does have is the power to engage stakeholders and create the kind of partnerships that can lead to progress.

Diplomatic Engagement
And one of our most important partnerships is with the government of the DRC. No progress can be made without the explicit engagement of Congolese authorities. Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Carson and others have met with President Kabila and raised our concerns with him directly.

In many parts of the country, state authority is absent. Infrastructure is crumbling. And corruption has eaten away the institutions that support the rule of law and citizen safety.  But the United States stands ready to help where we can. We're exploring opportunities to engage senior DRC mining officials on best practices on mining regulations and governance.  Along with other members of the Great Lakes Contact Group, we've offered to help develop a plan to implement the January 2010 proposals by the Contact Group's Task Force on Illegal Trade and Exploitation of Natural Resources. These proposals will help in at least three ways.

First, they will outline steps establishing areas for secure trade in minerals. Second, they suggest a process for blacklisting mines where exploitation by armed groups has occurred. And third, they will encourage mineral trade intermediaries to only purchase from legitimate and regulated mines.

We're also exploring the best way to leverage the five-year PROMINES [PRO-means] project to build government capacity to manage the mineral sector. The $92 million joint World Bank and [United Kingdom] Department for International Development (DFID) initiative aims to improve the socio-economic impact of industrial and artisanal mining. We support the initiative and seek opportunities to reinforce and advance its mission.

Natural Resources Trade
This multilateral initiative dovetails with our other efforts to promote responsible trade in natural resources. We have worked with the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) to create due diligence guidelines in the mining and minerals sector.

We have been active participants in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative--an international campaign to disclose both payments by mining companies to host governments and host government revenues from mining companies.
These multilateral campaigns have yielded progress in other resource extraction industries. And we believe we can bring those lessons to bear on the illicit minerals trade in the DRC.

We launched the Congo Basin Forest Partnership in 2002 with a number of other partners, to reduce the loss of forests and biodiversity due to illegal charcoal production across Central Africa-- including in Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park.  There, the United States works with communities, NGOs, local leaders and government at all levels to promote better natural resource and land management. And we also provide support for a group of park rangers who have regularly found themselves in the line of fire while trying to stem the ongoing conflict.

We have worked with the United Kingdom and others to strengthen the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human rights for mining industry and the minerals sector at large. And I’m pleased to announce that on July 1st, we will host a meeting of the Voluntary Principal members and other stakeholders to discuss how the Voluntary principals can be extended to the artisanal mining areas of eastern DRC.

Private Sector
In recent months we have harnessed the State Department’s power to convene by engaging the private sector in an ongoing conversation on this issue.  In the first of what we hope will be many meetings, I joined Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero and Assistant Secretary Carson to focus on end-user companies' efforts to ensure that their supply chains were free of conflict minerals.

We urged representatives from consumer electronics, automotive, jewelry and manufacturing industries to commit to strong due diligence guidelines. We want them to support transparency when sourcing from high-risk regions like the DRC. And their customers are already demanding as much.  When each of us buys a computer or a cell phone or a car or a bracelet, we want to be confident that no part of it comes from exploited labor, that the manufacturing or production process was humane, and that the workers throughout the supply chain were treated fairly.

Most of these firms support these goals. They want to do well and do good. Our task in the coming months is to help them to adopt due diligence guidelines that identify suppliers with poor track records, establish internal controls over the mineral supply chain, and promote a framework for reliable auditing of those same guidelines.   We know this is not easy, and that trade in this area is complicated. But the objective is important and urgent.

We also recognize and applaud the progress they have already made. The new smelter-validation program being pursued by the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative is another positive step towards the traceability and responsible sourcing of tantalum.

These are the kinds of projects and ideas that we hope will continue. We also hope to work with the private sector and others to find new ways to contribute to the development of capacity of the mining regulators on the ground in the DRC--either through infrastructure projects, technical assistance, or better training.

We also recognize that not all actors in this trade have clean hands. That's why we are looking at companies and individuals suspect of supporting or contributing to illegal armed groups through the illicit trade of natural resources. Under UN Resolution 1857, all Member States, the United States included, must impose sanctions on those who fall in this category. We will not shrink from this responsibility. We have already warned one U.S. company that it has been identified in the illicit trade of tantalum.

We need to update our own sanctions, and we are working with the Treasury Department to do so. As part of this process, we are also working to provide the Treasury Department with a list of persons that should be considered for sanctions.

Of course, the toughest challenge we face is security. Anywhere between 20 and 25 different “Mayi Mayi” militias—or armed, rebel groups are operating in the North and South Kivu provinces of eastern Congo (according to MONUC and international NGOs). Loose alliances between these militias shift regularly. New groups form. Others fall apart. So it is extremely difficult to accurately track or identify their movements.

Also, the threat posed by some in the Congolese Army-- the FARDC--cannot be overstated. The FARDC (which stands at about 50-60,000 soldiers in North and South Kivu) as well as the integrated CNDP forces prey on the public by demanding taxes from mine workers. Many are unpaid, untrained, but well-armed young men who pose as much of a risk to the local population as the rebels.
That's why we continue to support the U.N. Mission to the Congo to promote security and stabilization in the region. Since 1999, MONUC has helped dismantle the FDLR, protect vulnerable communities from rebel violence, and help build government capacity to deliver services.

I know that MONUC's presence is not without controversy. But no peacekeeping mission will have all the resources it needs to be 100% effective. The DRC is better off with MONUC than without it. And while this holds true, we will support the operation and urge President Kabila to make good use of it.

Artisanal Mining Communities
Many families living in artisanal mining communities have abandoned farms and pastoral land as a result of the conflict. But they've also left behind any sense of empowerment--the ability to define their own future and that of their children. So we are encouraged by the NGOs, faith-based organizations, and labor unions that are helping workers better understand their rights.
Ultimately, our goal is to give these families the chance to move back to their homes and pastoral land, while ensuring that they never again have to live on the outskirts of opportunity.

Building Capacity
Through our efforts in each of the areas, I've mentioned we hope to strengthen the ability of the DRC to chart its own path to progress. Along the way, we will have raised the stakes of inaction, improved the environment for transparency and accountability, and reduced the threat posed by armed groups. 

In closing, let me make a plea directly to those in the audience today. All of you have come here for a reason. Whether you serve in government, at a think tank, on the Hill or in an NGO, my guess is you share more than just a passing interest in this issue. I am hoping that because of your presence here today, we can count on your ideas, your energy, your effort, and your advocacy tomorrow.

If you see areas where we could do better, raise your voice. If we're on the wrong track, help us find the right one. I share your sense of urgency and impatience to see more concrete results. Through teamwork and handwork, we can establish the partnerships across all sectors of society that will bring an end to this human tragedy once and for all.