22 May 2012

Enough Responds to My Criticisms

John Bagwell writes an evenhanded response to my concerns about an earlier Enough Project post that cast the debate about Dodd-Frank section 1502 as 'people vs profit.' Bagwell argues at the end that the discussion about costs could be a setback for the progress made. I am curious as to what others think.

A selection of the response (bold emphasis added):
We welcome reasonable debate about section 1502 and have participated in numerous panels and forums alongside critics of both the provision itself and Enough’s approach on the issue. There is no doubt that Dizolele and Seay’s intentions are, like our own, aimed at helping the people of Congo and not on the side of industry in this “profits vs. people” narrative. However, the fact remains that their testimony was used to bolster the bottom line message delivered by Congressman Miller in his closing comments: “And let's hope that the [DRC] government and the region does something about this problem, deals with the human rights. I hate to see the burden placed on the back of American businesses. It's not Congress paying, it's American business paying.” By accepting to appear as Republican witnesses at the hearing, it’s difficult to imagine Seay and Dizolele were na├»ve to the fact that their testimonies would be used to support this side of the debate. 
Section 1502, which attained strong bi-partisan support in its previous life as stand-alone legislation as well as during conference committee hearings, unfortunately seems to be becoming a political football for some in Congress who seek to make it a poster child for anti-regulatory agendas. Both the positive and negative impacts of 1502 should continue to be researched and debated, but our hope is that the conversation occurs in a way that does not contribute to a narrative that dismisses the positive role and responsibility that both the U.S. government and corporate actors have to play in helping to address the crisis in eastern Congo.   
I agree with Murphy that, when attempting to address complex foreign policy issues, simply “doing something is not sufficient.” But neither is letting complexities and the pursuit of perfection lead to inaction and the abdication of global responsibility we all have in helping to seek solutions. 
If this “costs” approach—focused primarily on whether conflict minerals regulations are too burdensome for corporations but thinly veiled as a debate over whether 1502 is doing more harm than good for civilians in eastern Congo—continues to progress and leads to attempts at a repeal of Section 1502, it will set back years of work and political will generated for action—not just pertaining to Congo, but for any issue that seeks to address corporate responsibility and transparency as an entry point for tackling challenging human rights issues across the globe.
Read the full post here