Beyond Blood Mobiles : There are no simple solutions for the DRC

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In the summer of 2008 violence flared up again in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The media and political attention for the problems in the DRC were at an all-time high. There were two global simplified explanations for the eruption of the violence: it was either an ethnic problem, or a resource problem. It is widely believed, however, that resources are the main cause of the conflict in the DRC. Special attention was being paid for the role of coltan, which is won in the DRC and is used in electronics, for instance in mobile phones. This example was used to draw attention to the problems caused by natural resources the DRC. This issue had already been raised in 2001 when the price of coltan was so extremely high that a ‘black gold rush’ overrun the country. This has also had its impact on society; different militant parties fought over the resources, and many people were drawn to the mines were they found work under slavery-like conditions. In 2008 the role of coltan was much smaller than it was in 2001; now cassiterite (tin) was the most important export product of the DRC. The ‘coltan issue’ seemed to be outdated and the importance of the mineral on the global market was slim, according to many. But still, different possible solutions for the influence of natural resources on the conflict were posed, and one of those solutions was the Trading Chains. The Certification of Trading Chains (CTC) is a project proposed by the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), an institute that does research for the German government. The BGR has started two initiatives, both related to coltan: fingerprinting coltan and the CTC. The technique of fingerprinting could be used to trace a mineral back to its mine by geochemical means. This fingerprinting can be used in the CTC, which aim it is to certificate the mineral from its origin to its end user. The goal of this certification process is to make it possible for merchants and manufacturers to see if the mineral they buy is in any way related to conflict. But the CTC does not only look at the relationship between the mineral and a certain conflict. It also looks at work conditions, security, human rights and social economic and institutional development and environmental performance. The CTC is still in its pilot phase, which is held in Rwanda and will probably start in the DRC in 2009.
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