Saturday

7th Dec 2019

Letter

MEPs urged to adopt binding rules on conflict minerals

  • New legislation on conflict minerals 'does not envision any real change' (Photo: European Parliament)

On Wednesday (20 May), the European Parliament will vote on a proposed regulation to tackle the trade in conflict minerals.

This trade in tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold (3TG) is fuelling conflict which has had devastating consequences for people in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Colombia.

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We are gravely concerned that the regulation proposed by the European Commission does not envision any real change. It makes it merely optional for importers to source these minerals responsibly.

The proposed voluntary scheme would cover just 0.05 percent of companies using these minerals within the EU. No companies would be legally obliged to check whether they are complicit in financing conflict or human rights abuses.

We regret that the proposal in April 2015 by the European Parliament’s committee on International Trade on recommending binding “due diligence” requirements for approximately only 20 smelters and refiners based in Europe will not solve the problem.

There must be legal requirements governing all companies that place these minerals on the European market - in any form, not just 3TG imported by a handful of smelters.

Extending the binding requirement to tackle the entire trade effectively - not just one part of it - would put the European Union at the forefront of global efforts to create more transparent, responsible and sustainable business practices.

It would also better align Europe with OECD standards on responsible sourcing and complement existing binding rules adopted by the US and several African countries, including DRC.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have an historic opportunity to help break the links between the minerals trade, conflict and human rights abuses - such as the large-scale sexual violence in eastern DRC, which Panzi Hospital is dedicated to healing.

We call on them to ensure that in line with its fundamental principles, the European Parliament demands additional binding rules that put respect for human rights above narrow economic interests.

Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynaecologist. He was awarded the European Parliament's 2014 Sakharov Prize. This letter was co-signed by the heads of 34 NGOs

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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