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Responsible Supply Chains

Conference "Democratization in the crisis? Situation and Perspectives in the DR Congo"


02.12.2019 |

Today it is a matter of course to own one or even more mobile phones. In Germany, a mobile phone has an average lifespan of about 18 months: If one breaks, a new device is simply bought. But does one really want to buy a smartphone that contains raw materials that finances violent conflicts? Or which was mined by child or slave labour? This problem is nowhere as explosive as in small-scale mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We think that the conflict in Congo is far away. But anyone who owns a smartphone, has something to do with it.

For this reason, the Catholic relief organization Missio has started the signature collection "Action Clean Cell Phones". The petition calls on manufacturers of mobile phones to use only raw materials for the production of smartphones that can be proven not to originate from illegal mining. The 60,000 signatures collected were now handed over to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) by Missio President Dirk Bingener, moderator Gundula Gause and Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 2018, at a high-ranking Missio conference at the Catholic Academy Berlin on 25-26 November 2019. Dr. Stefan Oswald, Head of the Africa Department at BMZ, accepted the signatures on behalf of Federal Minister Dr. Gerd Müller, who was in charge of the event entitled "Democratization in the Crisis? Situation and Perspectives in the DR Congo".

Around 80 representatives from the Catholic Church, civil society, public institutions and the private sector from DEU and the DR Congo came together to discuss various aspects of the Congolese democratization process with experts. In more than half of the contributions the questions of raw materials played a major role.

In the opening speech, MinDir. Dr. Oswald presented the Marshall Plan for Africa and spoke about basic intentions and difficulties of future development cooperation with Africa according to a partnership at eye level. In a panel entitled "The Paradox of Wealth", Prof. Ferdinand Muhigirwa (Université Loyola du Congo), Dr. Sören Dengg (RL 412, BMZ) and Telekom representative Cornelia Szyszkowitz reported on their respective areas of responsibility and views of potential problems of raw material extraction and fair supply chains. Mr. Muhigirwa gave a general overview of the Congolese resource wealth and its challenges. He complained about the corruption and insufficient state revenues resulting from the mining of raw materials and called for holistic development efforts. Mr. Dengg spoke about the challenges in establishing fair supply chains of minerals from conflict regions. He described the different regulations and development policy measures on due diligence and certification systems for conflict minerals. There are still problems with impact measurement and data collection. In the end, he addressed the human rights challenges in the mining of cobalt. Ms. Szyszkowitz then reported on Telekom's practice with regard to responsible procurement of raw materials. She emphasized the importance of responsible procurement of raw materials and advocated solidarity between different sectors, e.g. within the framework of multi-actor initiatives.

In addition to the conference, a lecture event followed by a panel discussion took place at the Charité in Berlin on the evening of November 25. With approx. 400 participants, it was very well received. Dr. Mukwege gave a vivid and touching speech about his surgical and pastoral work with victims of sexual violence in the DRC. The subsequent discussion moderated by Gundula Gause was attended by Dr. Mukwege, the President of the World Health Summit, Prof. Detlev Ganten, and Thérèse Mema Mapenzi, trauma therapist and social worker from the Congo. In the lecture and discussion, Dr. Mukwege emphasized, among other things, that the Congo conflict is primarily an economic one. The interest in the country's raw materials continues to be the driving force behind the conflict. Dr. Mukwege described the EU regulation on conflict minerals, which becomes binding for EU importers in 2021, and the American Dodd-Frank Act as "small steps forward" in the right direction. Ms. Mema Mapenzi stressed the importance of traceability systems for the origin of raw materials in order to give force to the regulations. Prof. Ganten also mentioned the duty of all countries that receive raw materials to take responsibility for establishing fair supply chains.

For further information, please contact Leopold von Carlowitz.

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