Conflict minerals rules can promote both human rights and trade

Written by Seb Dance on 18 May 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

Seb Dance explains why parliament's vote on conflict minerals is a 'unique opportunity' that has the power to influence hundreds of thousands of lives.

It is an inescapable fact that many of the minerals and metals contained within the technology we use every day are procured from gangs, who use slavery and rely on cheap labour to increase their available income for reinvesting in armed conflict. 

I write this following an impassioned speech to the European parliament by Sakharov prize winner Denis Mukwege, who continues to risk his own life by providing essential treatment to women and girls in conflict zones who have suffered from the horrific brutality of war, such as rape and slavery. 

His words should make us all think about the priorities we hold as legislators. To ignore his fervent plea for action at a European level would be unforgivable.


RELATED CONTENT


By ensuring that we take action across the supply chain, we further bolster a key tenet of this commission's stated policy ambitions: that we achieve, where possible, policy coherence across different areas of the union's decision-making. 

If we view the topic of certification as a purely trade issue that impacts industry in Europe, we are ignoring the root cause of the problem. Conflict, poverty and disease are bred from desperation. Regimes that provide for a fair wage, decent working conditions and increased confidence from export partners are far more likely to escape these factors.

Mukwege is calling for our legislation to place a mandatory commitment on the entirety of the supply chain. Not only does this ensure Europe's action is not less than that of China and the US, whose systems are mandatory, but it allows us to avoid the mistakes carried out in the US, where the exclusion of small firms has led to a market that is unfairly skewed towards larger companies.

Every day, victims of rape and abuse sustained either at the mines themselves or as collateral from warring factions seeking to control mineral-rich territories find their way - at great personal danger - to Mukwege's hospital. 

His realisation was that without long-term change to the financing of conflicts in his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the numbers of traumatised women and children would only increase.

We have a duty to share this realisation. We have a unique opportunity as a parliament to vote to say that we value human rights and human dignity as well as trade. We can vote to say that we understand that our decisions have the power to affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for the better, and we do so without the false belief that we must offset the importance of life for the importance of trade. Both are possible.

About the author

Seb Dance (S&D, UK) is a member of parliament's environment, food safety and public health committee

Interested in this content?

Sign up to our free daily email bulletins.

 

Share this page

Tags

Categories

Related Partner Content

A real circular economy needs to address the challenge of scrap flow
18 April 2016

Aluminium will play a major role in delivering the European Commission’s circular economy ambitions; therefore we must retain our existing resources in the face of high international demand -...

PM+: Delaying China market economy status vital for EU's competitiveness
5 November 2015

If Europe wants to avoid becoming China's dumping ground, then it must postpone granting China market economy status, argue Milan Nitzschke and Laurent Ruessmann.

PM+: Montenegro's 'Façade democracy' conceals corrupt and authoritarian regime
12 November 2015

Montenegro latest progress report is a timely reminder of the contempt with which the country's prime minister Milo Đukanović treats the European institutions, argues Andrey Petrushinin