Belgium: EU moves to reduce financing of armed groups through conflict minerals

Brussels, Belgium (PANA) - The European Council (EC) on Monday adopted a regulation aimed at stopping the financing of armed groups through trade in conflict minerals.

At least 95% of all European Union (EU) imports of metals and minerals will be covered under the regulation, while small volume importers will be exempt, according to a copy of this rule that was made available to PANA.

The regulation obliges EU companies to source their imports of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold responsibly for the 'upstream' part of the production process, which involves the extraction and refining of the minerals, and to ensure that their supply chains do not contribute to funding armed conflict.

"These 'due diligence' rules will become binding from 1 January 2021, though importers are encouraged to apply them as soon as possible," the Council stated, elaborating that competent authorities will carry out checks to ensure that EU importers of minerals and metals comply with their due diligence obligations

Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold can be used in everyday products such as mobile phones, automobiles or jewelry. In conflict-affected and high-risk areas, armed groups often use forced labour to mine these minerals which they then sell to fund their activities.

"By ensuring product traceability, the regulation is aimed at cutting off a major source of their income," the EC said, noting that the regulation builds upon 2011 OECD guidelines which set the international benchmark for supply chain due diligence.

In addition, the European Commission will carry out a number of other measures to further boost due diligence by both large and small EU 'downstream' companies, which are those that use these minerals as components to produce goods.

According to the regulation, the Commission will also draft a handbook including non-binding guidelines to help companies, and especially SMEs, with the identification of conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

Although they hold great potential for development, natural mineral resources can, in conflict-affected or high-risk areas, be a cause of dispute where their revenues fuel the outbreak or continuation of violent conflict, undermining endeavours towards development, good governance and the rule of law.

In the EC's view, breaking the nexus between conflict and illegal exploitation of minerals is a critical element in guaranteeing peace, development and stability.

Human rights abuses are common in resource-rich conflict-affected and high-risk areas and may include child labour, sexual violence, the disappearance of people, forced resettlement and the destruction of ritually or culturally significant sites.

The challenge posed by the desire to prevent the financing of armed groups and security forces in resource-rich areas has been taken up by governments and international organisations together with economic operators and civil society organisations, including women's organisations that are to the forefront of drawing attention to the exploitative conditions imposed by these groups and forces, as well as to rape and violence used to control local populations.

At the highest international level, UN Security Council Resolution 1952 (2010) specifically targeted the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its neighbours in Central Africa calling for supply chain due diligence to be observed. Following up on that Resolution, the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, also advocated compliance with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance.

In addition to multilateral initiatives, on 15 December 2010, the Heads of State and Government of the African Great Lakes Region took a political commitment in Lusaka to fight the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the region and approved inter alia a regional certification mechanism based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance.
-0- PANA AR/MA 3April2017

03 april 2017 09:37:20

xhtml CSS