Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Round Up of My Writings about the Conflict Minerals Campaign

The New York Times oped:
How Congress Devastated Congo
IT’S a long way from the marble halls of Congress to the ailing mining towns of eastern Congo, but the residents of Nyabibwe and Nzibira know exactly what’s to blame for their economic woes.

A Response to Enough
The Huffington Post has published Enough's response to my New York Times op-ed. I think it's unconvincing, for several reasons

What Should We Have Known? (First of several)
None of the people responding critically to my op-ed in the NYT letters section or the blogosphere denies its principal claim: that the law has immiserated a million or so highly vulnerable people. None of them, however, suggests this information has spurred them to reconsider their support for the law, slow their efforts to see it implemented, or make any effort to help the miners whose livelihood the law has all but eliminated. In fact, with one exception, none of them discuss the plight of the miners and their families at all: it's as if they don't exist

The Spurious Claims (Second of several)
Defenders of Dodd-Frank make several arguments on its behalf: that it has done a great deal of good and has the potential to do much more good; that it cuts the Gordian knot tying mineral profits to conflict (and therefore rape); that, contrary to my assertion, it does in fact enjoy the broad support of local communities and Congolese civil society organizations; and that miners have not been substantively harmed by the virtual elimination of the trade in minerals. I want to consider each of these arguments in turn, but before I do I want to deal with a few of the less serious objections to my op-ed.

27,000 Americans Call on Congolese to Boycott Money
With apologies to The Onion.
A swelling chorus of Americans is calling on Congolese to help bring an end to the painful cognitive dissonance they feel whenever they play Angry Birds on their iPhone. Led by lovable celebra-dog Houser, best known for rescuing refugees in the former Zaire, the Americans are asking Congolese miners to boycott all forms and specie of money until they sort out their feelings.

Were Congolese Excluded? (Third of Several)
In my NYT op-ed I reported that knowledgeable Congolese felt excluded from the conflict minerals debate. It was, they told me, a dialog in which their voices went unheeded, dominated by Western advocacy groups confronting Western electronics companies. As a result, immensely important decisions about the lives of millions of Congolese were made without any input from them.

Eighty-eight Less than Luther
I spoke last month at the New York City Bar Association* on the predictable but unintended consequences of DF 1502 on armed conflict and economic development in eastern DRC.

Are Enough and Global Witness Violating the Very Guidelines They Promote?
A penpal sends me the following observation: Activist groups like Enough appear to be in violation of the OECD Guidelines they promote as part of the solution to the problem of "conflict minerals."

My Comments at the World Bank
I spoke at a World Bank event last week (November 9) on the various initiatives underway to develop conflict-free mineral sourcing from the DRC.

Yay Us! The Private Public Alliance for Conflict Minerals
There's nothing like watching diplomats at work to make me feel like Holden Caulfield. Last week's launch of the Private Public Alliance at the US Institute of Peace is a case in point.

RePublishing: Why We Need a Social Impact Assessment on Conflict Minerals
How many Congolese children are going to bed hungry tonight because of Dodd-Frank 1502?
This is not a rhetorical question. In fact, we have no meaningful data regarding the extent of the harm caused by DF-1502.

Have Global Witness and Enough Brought Kwashiorkor to Central Africa?
Imagine that your stated goal is to advocate for patients suffering from a terrible, debilitating disease, and that a new drug comes along that promises to alleviate many of the worst symptoms of this disease.

Now imagine that reports start filtering in from clinics where patients are being treated experimentally with the drug. The reports, at best, are mixed. At worst, they suggest that the drug may be truly harmful.

What do you do?

Bisie: A Reality Check
One of the most repeated criticisms of my NY Times piece about conflict minerals is that in my zeal to make the case against Dodd Frank I ignored the many positive developments that were happening on the ground as a result of it. Principal among those developments was said to be the de-militarization of Bisie, the largest tin mine in the Kivus

Questions Enough and Global Witness Refuse to Answer
Global Witness and The Enough Project pride themselves on their hard-hitting, pull-no-punches research into malefactors around the world, from African warlords to corrupt Western bankers. Central to their ethos is a belief in openness and transparency--in the idea, as the cliche goes, that sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Where Now with DF-1502 and the Conflict Minerals Campaign?
A conference on conflict minerals at the Center for Global Development last week revealed that the gulf between advocates and critics of DF-1502 remains as wide as ever. The speakers were Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness, Mvemba Dizolele of Stanford, Laura Seay of Morehouse, and Enough's Sasha Lezhnev. To my mind, the most revealing statement of the day came from Corinna, who at one point plaintively asked the room, "Can anyone honestly say that having people with guns running around in mining communities is a good thing?"

Why Companies Will Avoid DRC
Given just how incredibly complex and ever-shifting supply chains are, at both upstream (from the mine to the smelter) and downstream (from the smelter to the finished product) ends, it is all but impossible to envision companies ever buying minerals from eastern DRC until rigorous, stable, closed loop supply chains are established. And it is hard to imagine how those closed loop chains could ever incorporate more than a handful of mines, given current conditions.

Rosenblum's Cant and Stearns' Guild
A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to Peter Rosenblum’s latest broadside, a letter he addressed to the SEC excoriating my New York Times’ op-ed. The note she attached to the link said, “What did you do, run over his dog?!”

My Testimony before the House Monetary and Trade Subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee
Unfortunately, in their quest to fashion a narrative that would resonate with and therefore galvanize their largely Western audience, activists ignored the complexities of the local context and brushed aside Congolese experts who repeatedly warned them of the dangers the conflict minerals campaign posed to their people.In doing so, they developed policy prescriptions that damaged an already tenuous economy, entrenched the position of the warlords, and accomplished little by way of resolving the conflicts.

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