Last year the European Parliament voted in favor of a strong regulation that would help fight trade in conflict minerals, but member states have been looking to weaken the plans.
High-level negotiations have gone behind closed doors in a trialogue process where the regulation is being watered down and rendered almost meaningless to those affected by this bloody trade. If Member States have their way, the EU rules would fall short of measures taken by the US, China and African countries, and undermine the internationally recognized standard of the OECD’s due diligence guidance.
CIDSE, the international alliance of catholic development organizations, deplore (to be adapted when certainty about the outcomes of today trilogue meeting) the outcomes of the second trilogue meeting (the negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the 28 EU Member States that form the EU Council) since it falls short from the demands expressed by many civil society organizations, including more than 150 Bishops from around the world.
Stefan Reinhold, CIDSE’s Advocacy coordinator on conflict minerals, said “The Council has yet to make constructive steps towards an agreement, refusing to move on from its very weak position of December 2015 defending a voluntary regulation. It seems that while a number of EU Member States would be willing to move towards a mandatory regulation, a few Member States are blocking all progress. And while some voices are calling attention to the need to maintain respect for the OECD standards on due diligence, this is far from assured.”
EU government leaders must realize the impact of watering down the regulation voted by elected EU representatives in the parliament. Member States should not hide behind closed doors, but make their positions transparent and be ready to defend their choices publicly (1) . Millions of women, children and men in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia or Myanmar are facing violence, rape and death in areas surrounding mines, while companies along entire supply chains are not obliged to check whether their products contain conflict minerals. And European citizens cannot have the guarantee that the products they buy and use daily are manufactured without violating human rights.
In a public debate in Brussels on 14th of March, Abbot Léonard SANTEDI, Secretary General of the Congolese Bishops Conference, stated that a voluntary regulation would not be enough to improve the situation of populations living near mine areas. A study they undertook showed that the 2010 US Dodd Frank Act has spurred real changes by business actors of all nationalities towards responsible mineral sourcing. “I come here with a cry of suffering from my people, but also a cry of hope. In keeping with its values and respect for human dignity, the European Union has a duty of responsibility, and solidarity. Otherwise it’s the law of the jungle.”
During the debate, Mr Elmar Brok, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, shared his conviction that “a binding agreement with limited scope isn’t a full moral approach, but it can be a solution”. He said he’s “been around long enough in business and seen too many ‘Volkswagens’ to know that the value of self-control is zero.”
And Jan Tytgat, Director EU Government Affairs Benelux at Umicore, a business undertaking due diligence in its minerals recycling activities, stated that “A proposal that doesn’t refer to downstream can’t assure customers that phones don’t contain conflict gold. It cuts the problem in parts. Every week we receive questions from downstream customers on the conflict-free nature of our minerals.”
Negotiators are ignoring EU citizens’ call to action: 1.500 EU citizens to date have joined their voices in this campaign action calling on EU negotiators to “stand up in favor of an ambitious regulation on conflict minerals”.
Yesterday, CIDSE joined the Stop Mad Mining network to hand over the petition “Tackling the trade in conflict minerals!” signed by almost 42.000 people, who demand an EU regulation with mandatory due diligence, which meets the OECD standards as a minimum.
The EU discussions stand in stark contrast to recent developments in France, where on 23 March, the National Assembly adopted in second reading a legislative proposal on parent company duty of care that would require large French companies to develop a “vigilance plan” in order to prevent environmental damage and human rights violations connected with their activities, in France as well as within global supply chains (2). Stefan Reinhold said that “the French have taken an important step towards legislation for due diligence in supply chains – it’s time for EU decision makers to get inspired and move decisively towards adopting a strong regulation that will help put a stop to the scandal of conflict minerals”.
(1) Current EU Ombudsman investigation into the transparency of Trialogues.
Stefan Reinhold, CIDSE Advocacy coordinator on conflict minerals
+32 (0)2 233 37 51, reinhold(at)cidse.org
Valentina Pavarotti, CIDSE Media and Communication Officer
+32 (0)2 2824073, pavarotti(at)cidse.org
Notes to the editors:
Background on the conflict minerals regulation:
In the absence of a strong regulatory system, European citizens cannot be sure that the products they buy and use daily didn’t involve human rights violations. To tackle this issue, the European Commission proposed the “conflict minerals” regulation in March 2014. The proposal was disappointing in many ways: it consisted in a self-certification system that companies could voluntarily join, and it only applied to 19 smelters and refiners based in the EU (while not covering all products entering the EU market that contain the targeted minerals). In May 2015, the European Parliament (EP) strengthened the proposal by requiring all European companies manufacturing or importing components and final products containing the targeted minerals to check their supply chains to make sure they don’t fuel conflicts or participate in human rights violations. Even if some gaps still remain, CIDSE welcomed this vote as a great evolution.
CIDSE has coordinated a statement signed by nearly 150 Church leaders from 38 countries on 5 continents, asking for strong regulation to achieve the objective of breaking the link between natural resources and conflicts.
Other CIDSE’s resources on conflict minerals are available.
CIDSE is an international family of Catholic social justice organizations, working together to promote justice, harness the power of global solidarity and create transformational change to end poverty and inequalities. We do this by challenging systemic injustice and inequity as well as destruction of nature. We believe in a world where every human being has the right to live in dignity. www.cidse.org
CIDSE members: Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), CAFOD (England and Wales), CCFD – Terre Solidaire (France), Center of Concern (USA), Cordaid (the Netherlands), Development & Peace (Canada), Entraide et Fraternité (Belgium), eRko (Slovakia), Fastenopfer (Switzerland), FEC (Portugal), FOCSIV (Italy), Fondation Bridderlech Deelen (Luxembourg), KOO (Austria), Manos Unidas (Spain), MISEREOR (Germany), Progressio (United Kingdom), SCIAF (Scotland), Trócaire (Ireland)