Posts Tagged Enough Project

Latest News on Conflict Minerals – Victory in U.S. Congress

After writing about Congo’s conflict minerals and NGOs such as the Enough! Project‘s efforts to alert public opinion, good news recently came out of the United States Congress.

From the Enough! Project’s website:

Today, Congo activists, U.S. consumers, and the people of Congo won an incredible victory against long odds. Congress passed the Wall Street reform bill with the inclusion of a key provision on conflict minerals. The conflict minerals language requires companies that use tin, tungsten, tantalum, or gold in their products to file a disclosure report with the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing whether these materials originated in Congo or its adjoining countries. And thanks to you, the bill requires companies to audit these reports to actually prove whether they are sourcing from conflict mines or not.

While passage of the conflict minerals provision is not a cure-all for completely ending the war in Congo, it is a huge step forward. This new law – once it is signed by President Obama – begins to eliminate the source of funding that allows armed militias to continue to terrorize and humiliate communities, cause countless deaths, and commit widespread sexual violence and rape.

While the fight is not over, activists should be very proud of this impressive victory and deserve to relish in this moment. Across the United States, Congo activists, members of the diaspora, and concerned consumers – the growing movement across America that sees the urgency in ending the world’s deadliest war – rallied around the passage of this legislation. They overran the Facebook pages of elected officials, followed up with phone calls, met face-to-face with their representatives, and called on industry leaders to clean up their supply chain.  Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Russ Feingold (D-WI), Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Donald Payne (D-NJ), Chairmen Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Barney Frank (D-MA), and many other brave members of Congress also deserve special praise for taking a major step to ending the neglected conflict in eastern Congo. These are just some examples of the creative advocacy that has helped elevate the issue of conflict minerals to reach today’s tipping point.

From the day President Obama signs the bill, the Securities and Exchange Commission will have nine months to promulgate regulations implementing the new law. It will be up to us to ensure that these regulations are as strong as possible. While the jewelry and manufacturing lobbyists were caught off guard by the conflict minerals language and weighed in too late to remove the language, you can be sure industries will fight to make sure the regulations implementing the law are as weak as possible. As this story continues to develop, we’ll be coming to you with new ways of getting engaged. Please stick with us.

Congratulations on today’s exciting victory!

Good news indeed.

A little reminder video on what’s wrong with conflict minerals and consumer electronics:

UPDATE: A nice piece about this in Newsweek: The Genocide Behind Your Smartphone.

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Putting Article 16 of the Rome Statute to Good Use?

The Siege of the International Criminal Court, in The Hague

I had a “discussion” this morning on Twitter with Jon Hutson, of the Enough! Project I wrote about a few days ago, concerning peace in Sudan and Darfur following an article he posted. Although the discussion was necessarily limited by the format of Twitter (no more than a 140 characters per message), I thought it raised interesting questions especially relating to how to use article 16 of the Rome Statute efficiently in peace negotiations.

The conversation started off when Mr. Hutson posted this op-ed article published in the New York Times. The article, ‘In Sudan, War is Around the Corner’, is written by Dave Eggers – the author of the novel What Is the What – and John Prendergast – the co-founder of the Enough Project.

The article is an interesting call for vigilance from the international community and the United States in particular at the outcome and consequences of the future referendum in 2011 concerning South Sudan’s eventual secession. As the authors of the article point out, should this referendum be cancelled or manipulated by Khartoum, fighting will break out once more in the South and in Darfur. They call for “developing a more robust package of carrots and sticks” which would “strengthen America’s diplomatic hand.

So far, no problem. But then something caught my eye (emphasized). And I quote:

“For this diplomatic effort to be effective, real incentives should be on the table as well: If — and only if — true peace comes to Sudan, we could offer conditional, one-year suspensions of the International Criminal Court warrants and normalization of relations between Khartoum and Washington. And experienced American negotiating teams should be deployed immediately to support African Union and United Nations efforts already under way to end the war in Darfur and prevent one between the north and south, just as we did with the 2005 deal.”

This, I thought, is particularly interesting. Offering one-year suspensions of the International Criminal Court warrants as a carrot for peace. Well, why not?

Let’s go back to law for a moment. The 1998 Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court includes a provision that states:

Article 16: No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions.

The provision is self-explanatory: the UN Security Council has the power to defer any investigation or prosecution by the ICC for one year, with the possibility of renewing the deferral. However, it only takes one veto, or a 8 out of 15 majority (it is little-known rule, but for a Security Council resolution to pass, a 9 out of 15 majority is required), for the deferral to be blocked, limiting the Security Council’s power over the Court.

To give a little background information on the importance of this article, it is interesting to note that it had been the subject of much debate during the negotiations, and is probably the most important reason why the Americans have refused to this day to ratify the Statute. I will not get too much into the details, but basically the Americans wanted a much larger control of the UN Security Council over the ICC’s actions, and in particular the Prosecutor’s. They wanted the Prosecutor to require authorization from the Security Council to being an investigation, which would, of course, be subject to American veto. For more info, see William A. Schabas, “United States Hostility to the International Criminal Court: It’s All About the Security Council” (2004) 15 EJIL 701-720.

In any case, under the Rome Statute, the Security Council can only suspend one year (renewable) the procedure against – in this case – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The question is: what can the Security Council do with this in order to secure peace?

I’m going to put on the side my own belief that justice is not an impediment to peace but a requirement. In the words of Mark Kersten, I fit more in the “moral imperative camp,” coupled with the idea that for people to find peace they “psychologically” need a form of justice and recognition. However, I am not an ideologue, and if an article 16 deferral can save lives, I certainly will not complain.

But can it? Dave Eggers and John Prendergast write that it should be considered as an incentive, a “carrot,” for al-Bashir to negotiate peace. My skepticism is aimed at the one-year limit. Is the UN Security Council going to renew the deferral every single year until al-Bashir dies (genocide and crimes against humanity are imprescriptible)? If not, then is al-Bashir really going to be interested by a single year suspension? Sooner or later, the ICC will catch up.

On the Enough! Project blog, John Prendergast writes about how he sees article 16 being used:

Article 16 was specifically included in the ICC charter to give countries leverage where there might appear to be none, and only in support of peace. The Article 16 deferral only lasts a year, and is conditioned on fulfilling the terms of the original deferral. So if the condition for deferment is a peace deal in Darfur, full implementation of the CPA, no support for violence or conflict in the South, respect for the referendum process and its results, and respect for human/civil rights in Sudan – certainly monumental hurdles when we consider the past 21 years of NCP rule – that bar has to be met and re-met every year. This means that the leverage inherent in an Article 16 deferral isn’t a one-off instrument, but rather an ongoing point of influence, which, if we utilize it, actually lends further credence to the ICC.

In many ways, that is an interesting view on article 16, and it could work. I have two reservations to make, however: first of all, as I have already said, even if the Security Council renews it every year under the condition that the Sudanese regime respects the peace process established since 2005, I don’t see it renewing it until al-Bashir’s death (in the hypothesis that al-Bashir all of the sudden gets the message and accepts the peace process, with all the carrots involved), and the Sudanese President is bound to know that. Secondly, and this relates more to principle and a form of idealism, I am uncomfortable in seeing the ICC, and Justice in general, used as a simple political tool of pressure. It is rather frequent in common law systems, but much less so in civil law systems.

That being said, if it works, I won’t let my idealism stand in the way of peace and of saving lives.

Sudan is an interesting case for international lawyers, as it seems to be the first of several things: first time the UN Security Council refers a situation to the ICC, and the first time the ICC indicts a sitting head of State. Could it also become the first time the Security Council uses article 16 of the Statute to defer a procedure?

It’s going to be interesting to watch.

What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to comment.

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What do PCs and Macs have in common? Blood Components.

Remember the Congo? No? I can’t really blame you, the problems plaguing Africa’s third biggest country have not – as far as I know – made headlines (at least in mainstream media) in a very long time. And yet, there’s been an ongoing conflict there since 1998 that has made, according to the latest reports by the International Rescue Committee approximatively 5 million casualties, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. In addition to these casualties, the conflict has displaced another million people.

So why talk about it now? It’s a wrong question. The right question would have been: why have we stopped talking about it? But that has changed recently, thanks to New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof and the people over at the Center for American Progress’ Enough! Project.

Nicholas Kristof – probably one of the best journalists to be working at the New York Times – has published on 26 June 2010 a column on how our electronic gadgets – whether phones, ipods or computers – fuel the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apparently, certain components in our electronics come from minerals coming out of Congo and that helps finance the conflict and warlords over there. As Nicholas Kristof writes, ““Blood diamonds” have faded away, but we may now be carrying “blood phones.”

Today, electronic companies such as for example Apple are particularly under the pressure of activists trying to raise awareness on this issue that concerns all of us modern gadget-freaks.

At the tip of the spear of this campaign against tainted electronic manufacturing is the Enough! Project of the Center for American Progress. These people have already been remarkably active on raising awareness of the situation in Sudan and Darfur, and have now turned their sights towards the issue of conflict-fueling electronics components with a campaign baptized “RAISE Hope for Congo.” One part of their campaign is a “spoof” video imitating one of the famous “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” Apple commercials. It is definitely worth watching:

This video is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most brilliant campaign broadcast I have ever watched. It gets it message across in a compelling and effective way, using a well-known format (the Apple commercials) to reach the audience in a slightly entertaining (but not too much) way.

Feeling the pressure, Apple’s Steve Jobs has addressed the issue in an email exchange with a concerned customer, claiming that although Apple asks its providers to certify that the minerals are conflict-free, it is impossible to be sure. Of course, the people over at Enough! Project beg to disagree, and sent an email themselves to Steve Jobs (on that matter, I wonder where everybody finds Steve Jobs’ email address. Not that I’ve been looking very hard myself.)

So what is to be done on this issue? As consumers of electronic devices, it is our responsibility to make sure that the gadgets we buy are built with conflict-free components. What was done with blood diamonds a few years ago must be done with gadgets today. See Enough’s Take Action webpage for more ideas.

On his blog, Nicholas Kristof concludes:

My hope is that public pressure will shame the electronics companies into scrubbing their supply chains of blood minerals, providing a bit more pressure that creates some space for a broader peace drive in Congo. And if the price is a penny in the price of a cell phone — sure sounds worth it to me.

I could not agree more.

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