Laptops and Cell Phones; "Conflict Free"

By passing the financial reform bill, Congress took an important step today toward giving American consumers and companies assurance their laptop and cell phone purchases won’t fund violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), says Christian humanitarian organization World Vision.

Critical provisions addressing so-called ‘conflict minerals’ were included in the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 passed by Congress. These provisions will require companies to file documentation with the Security and Exchange Commission, demonstrating that the minerals purchased from the DRC or adjoining countries are not sourced from a conflict mine. These filings will be subject to independent audits to make sure they are accurate and legitimate.

“This is a key step to dismantling an illegitimate trade in conflict minerals that has been funding one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” says Rory Anderson, World Vision’s deputy director for advocacy. “American companies understand their customers demand products that are conflict-free. These provisions provide the framework and a level playing field that corporations need to tackle the supply chain challenge on their own.”

Since 1997, the DRC has been wracked by war by competing armed factions. Widespread campaigns of rape, child soldiering and mass displacement have lead to more than 5 million deaths—about 1,200 people dying daily.

“This conflict is largely funded by conflict minerals that power our cell phones and laptops, and the lack of regulations continues to incentivize conflict and abuses of women and children,” Anderson says.

The trade in the “3 T’s” used in electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops —tin ore (cassiterite), tantalite (coltan), and tungsten (derived from wolframite), as well as gold—is a major source of funding for armed groups in eastern DRC who commit atrocities against civilians, Anderson says.

While the inclusion of the conflict minerals trade provisions marks progress, Anderson emphasized that regulations only do so much. “Enacting this legislation is the first step, the next and most important step will be implementation, including strong SEC regulations to ensure that corporations are complying with the law and not funding human rights abuses.”

The Congress’s acceptance of the conflict minerals provisions is the culmination of more than three years of work. Anderson commended Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA),Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Frank Wolf (R-VA), for their diligent work together in passing the landmark bipartisan legislation.

 

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