This is not a rhetorical question. In fact, we have no meaningful data regarding the extent of the harm caused by DF-1502. What we do know is the following:
1) The economy of eastern Congo was severely damaged by 30 years of kleptocracy under Mobutu and 14 subsequent years of war. As a result, eastern Congo is one of the poorest regions within Congo, itself one of the poorest countries in the world. Most of the economy is informal and subsistence in nature.
2) DF-1502 precipitated a de facto embargo of minerals from eastern Congo. This embargo began on April 1, 2011, after Western electronics companies, under pressure from Western NGOs, ordered major international smelting companies to cease accepting minerals from eastern DRC.
3) There were roughly 400,000 people working as artisanal miners in the Kivus before that date, more people than in any sector but agriculture.
4) Most of those miners supported families, meaning that somewhere between one and two million people depended directly on the mining trade for their livelihood. Mining was the region's major foreign currency earner.
5) Artisanal mining is difficult, dangerous work, but for most miners it is the best alternative within the universe of possibilities available to them.
6) The embargo led to a 75 to 90 percent drop in the export of tin, tantalum, and tungsten.
7) Of these "three Ts," the most important to the region was tin, or cassiterite, which miners are now able to sell at only one half to one third of its pre-DF 1502 value, to the extent that they can sell it at all.
8) The gold trade, to all appearances, has not been affected by DF-1502.
9) We have little understanding of the secondary economic impacts of the embargo. Visitors report visible signs of economic deterioration in Goma compared to the pre-DF period. Bukavu is less visibly distressed, but economic actors from market women to bankers report experiencing an economic downturn.
10) Numerous mining communities sprang up in remote locations in the Kivus. Once the embargo was put in place, these communities were virtually cut off from the outside world. The planes that had provisioned them no longer arrived, as the communities had nothing to sell.
The embargo is the direct, predictable result of actions taken by two Western NGOs: Global Witness and the Enough Project. They both campaigned for DF-1502 and threatened to cause reputational harm to companies that did not cooperate with them. They ignored warnings from credible Congolese mining experts of the problems they might cause, and failed to disclose those warnings in any of their reporting on the subject. Their actions led directly to the passage of DF-1502. As one of the provision's congressional sponsors told a gathering of Enough supporters: "Without your efforts, this would not have happened."
The Enough Project insists that the damage to the miners and the broader economy will be limited in duration and scope. They say that "dislocations are inevitable." Global Witness has yet to admit that DF-1502 has caused any harm to the region's inhabitants. They say that concerns about what they call the "current hiatus" amount to no more than "alarmist talk." The head of the UN's Group of Experts acknowledges that DF-1502 has caused "collateral damage," but claims that it has had a "massive and welcome impact so far"--without specifying who has welcomed it or why.
In contrast, several letters from Congolese mining associations testify to the problems the law has caused local communities:
I have asked the Enough Project and Global Witness to use their considerable influence (and resources) to call for a thorough investigation into the potentially negative consequences of Dodd-Frank. Both refused. I find that dismaying. The possibility that Dodd Frank 1502 has caused serious, measurable harm in eastern Congo is real. It is not merely "alarmist" to say so, nor is it enough to dismiss that harm as an "inevitable dislocation," as if we were discussing the economic consequences of technological growth. We do not know how much harm has been done or to how many people. Perhaps very little. So much the better. But it is also possible that one or two million of the world's poorest people lost their livelihood, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Surely this is worth investigating. To act as though no credible concerns have been raised, as these advocacy groups do, is to behave no differently than those against whom human rights groups typically raise their voices.
A social impact assessment would enable us to develop a clearer sense of what impact the embargo has had. It would focus on such questions as these:
A social impact assessment would enable us to respond to any immediate, emergency needs of the affected populations. It would provide a baseline of information for drawing up longer-term economic development projects and guide decisions about how Dodd-Frank 1502 should be implemented on the ground. It would help us assess the effectiveness of the law and draw lessons for future interventions.
There are a wide array of American, Western, and Congolese experts who could help plan and conduct the necessary research. A number of leading NGOs such as the British Resource Consulting Group, the American PACT, and the Belgian IPIS have done outstanding work on artisanal mining in eastern Congo and have considerable expertise in the region. Local groups such as BEST, the Pole Institute, the Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix, and Cenadep, have conducted widely respected research on mining, both with international partners and on their own. Other organizations such as Oxfam and the World Bank have substantial in-house experience conducting exactly this sort of research; other experts work in universities or as free-lance consultants. Commissioning a study that would send three or four international experts to work in conjunction with one or more local NGOs would be relatively inexpensive, at about $60,000 or less. In short, conducting a social impact assessment would be useful and cheap. It is also an urgent moral necessity.