Time to Celebrate! A Victory on Conflict Minerals

I woke up to fantastic news this morning. After a long night of compromise, at about 5:00 am this morning, Representatives and Senators participating in the Wall Street Reform conference agreed to an important amendment that will have a long-lasting, and positive, impact on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The amendment will address the devastating trade in certain minerals coming from the DRC, minerals that end up fueling armed groups responsible for human rights abuses in the DRC.

Ever since the introduction of the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4128) in November 2009, many of you have worked alongside us to help us ensure that Congress takes action to stop the trade in conflict minerals. A few months ago, over 20,000 of you asked your Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 4128. And just a few days ago, you took action again, this time to ensure conferees wouldn’t strike important language from the conflict minerals amendment.

Until the very last hour of negotiations last night, conferees were being pressured to strike provisions in the amendment that require independent auditing of the minerals supply chains and penalties for those who would source minerals that contribute to human rights violations – provisions which are absolutely necessary for this legislation to work in the way we want it to.

But despite these obstacles, the outpouring of activism from AI members and activists helped secure this huge victory for human rights in the DRC. We couldn’t have done this without you.

Of course, the fight doesn’t end here. The Wall Street Reform bill still needs to be voted on the floor. And there’s no shortage of other issues to be tackled in the DRC: the harassment of and violence against human rights defenders, widespread violence against women, the pending withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission … the list goes on. But what this victory shows is that we can have an impact if we speak up.

Conflict Minerals Bill Snags Another Co-Sponsor

Today, we celebrated the addition of a new co-sponsor to the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4128): Republican Congressman Edward Royce, representing California’s 40th congressional district.

As we have reported before, the Conflict Minerals Trade Act is a great first step in ensuring that the flow of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo is stemmed. Conflict minerals play a large role in perpetuating conflict and human rights abuses through financing the activities of many armed groups in the region, and end up in pieces of technology you use every day, including the equipment you’re using to read these words.

Although the bill now has 30 cosponsors (in addition to Jim McDermott, the bill’s original sponsor), it is crucial to gain additional cosponsors if this life-saving bill is to make its way through Congress. Several members are in a unique position to provide strong and meaningful support to the legislation, including members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee such as Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida’s 18th district), Congressman Christopher H. Smith (New Jersey’s 4th district), and Congressman Mike Pence (Indiana’s 6th district).

But no member of Congress should pass up the opportunity to support this bill. And none of us should pass up the opportunity to tell them so.

You can take action online today and ask your Federal Representative to co-sponsor the Conflict Minerals Trade Act. You can also call your Representative’s DC office and use these talking points.

February 15-19: Take Action to Stop the Flow of Conflict Minerals

Child labourers at a cassiterite (tin oxide mineral) mine in Numbi, South Kivu, April 2009. Copyright Amnesty International

Child labourers at a cassiterite (tin oxide mineral) mine in Numbi, South Kivu, April 2009. Copyright Amnesty International

Next week, activists like you are mobilizing across the country to push the House of Representatives to move forward on an important piece of legislation: the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4128).

The Conflict Minerals Trade Act was introduced a few months ago by Congressman Jim McDermott to improve transparency and reduce the trade in conflict minerals coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where millions of people have died due to an armed conflict. H.R. 4128 would greatly advance the goals of regulating and stemming the flow of conflict minerals, thereby limiting the ability of armed groups to benefit from conflict minerals and perpetuate the conflict. This bill is a great step towards reducing human rights abuses and supporting peace and security in the DRC.

The bill is currently being reviewed by the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. It is especially important for the bill to garner greater support and more co-sponsors so that it can move forward and we need your help.

There are several ways you can get involved to help Amnesty push this legislation forward. We have an online action up on our website, where you can directly email your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor the Conflict Minerals Trade Act.

You can also use these talking points and schedule an in-person meeting or a phone call with your Representative. Next week, all Representatives will be working from their districts instead of in Washington DC, so this is a perfect time to do this!

This groundbreaking bill would enable the United States to take effective action to protect the rights of the people of the DRC by ensuring that the trade in minerals does not perpetuate conflict. Join Amnesty International and other organizations including the Enough Project next week to ensure that your Congressman or Congresswoman supports the Conflict Minerals Trade Act.