11 September 2010

Will Enough Do More Harm Than Help?

I am a bit confused here. The Enough Project says that conflict minerals are bad.  They then tell consumers to only purchase products that are committed to providing conflict mineral free devices.  They even want legislation to help make this happen.  They tell people who visit their site Raise Hope for Congo:
Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers have no way to ensure that their purchases are not financing armed groups that regularly commit atrocities, including mass rape.
My first thought is to question how this will not have a negative impact on the miners livelihoods.  While the videos that Enough shows for this campaign do not address this issue at all, they do have a special page for answering questions that can be found after a little looking around (it is not on their separate site for the Congo campaign, but on the regular Enough site; tricky tricky.)

Their answer is:

We oppose a boycott and, on the contrary, are asking consumers to urge their own cell phone, laptop and jewelry companies to ensure their products are conflict-free. Companies now have an opportunity to achieve this goal and help Congolese communities through three key steps:
-- Tracing: Determining the precise sources of their minerals.
-- Auditing: Independently verifying these sources and trading routes.
-- Certifying: Working with the Congolese, Rwandan, U.S. and other governments to develop a certification process that improves upon systems already created for other exports such as blood diamonds.
So, I think I need a little help here.  There is not a boycott on the minerals but we should urge our electronics producers to use conflict-free minerals.  Wouldn’t ending trade with the DRC be the easiest solution to this?  As the problems with the Kimberly Process have shown, it is really hard to track every mineral.  If, say Dell, applied the lessons learned from Blood Diamonds, they would be better off eliminating DRC minerals entirely as it will provide the best opportunity for them to ensure that their devices are conflict free.
I should take a moment here to say that in I am in no way supporting or condoning the conflict in the DRC.  It is reprehensible and should come to an end immediately.  However, I wonder if the Enough campaign to end conflict free minerals is working to effectively end the troubles of the country.  Please do not confuse my questions and criticisms of the Enough project with support for the problems in the DRC.

There is a connection that Enough wants its audience to make between rape/violence and conflict minerals.  As Texas in Africa points out:
[T]here's no data showing that the mineral trade is the primary cause of violence in the eastern Congo. It's just not there. There are anecdotal accounts and reports on the mineral supply chains and reports on the horrific conditions in the mines.

The Enough Project wants to end conflict and the atrocities taking place in the DRC.  I think it would be hard to find anyone who does not agree with this premise.  However, as Rob Crilly said to George Clooney in his Huff Po piece on Sept 5th,
By concentrating on T-shirts, banners and wristbands it has clear, achievable targets and can generate a vast, grassroots movement. The same tactics have been used by anti-poverty campaigners and anti-war protesters, turning the debate from discussing outcomes in Africa or Iraq, to one of personal responsibility
Instead Clooney should change his ethical outlook, opting instead for one that values improvements on the ground rather than judging the morality of the players. Ends rather than means.
There have been a lot of posts written about this issue and I suggest seeing this Texas In Africa post that looks at what causes badvocacy.  Laura addresses campaigns like the Enough Project in her analysis.
Additional Resources from Experts (noted for or against legislation):
Wronging Rights - against
Chris Blattman - against
Texas in Africa – against (one post per word there so 3 total)
Enough’s Response 1 - for
Enough’s Response 2 - for
Congo Siasa – for
Dan Fahey - against

Enough Video 1:

Enough Video 2:

Enough Video 3:

Enough Video 4 (using sex and celebs!)

Video 5

I could just keep going with the videos, but I think that will give you a good idea that there are conflict minerals in the Congo that contribute to rape and murder. How does this not encourage people to boycot minierals from the DRC?