A mineral is classified as a “conflict mineral” if it is extracted or extorted by an armed group, often through the use of forced labor. Minerals acquired in this way include gold, columbite-tantalite (coltan), cassiterite, tungsten, and wolframite, and the vast majority of these minerals are sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The armed groups engaged in mining conflict minerals are both state-sponsored and non-state sponsored, and both domestic and foreign to the DRC. The Congolese National Army itself is a frequent perpetrator of armed conflict and resource looting in pursuit of control over these minerals, and Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi have all profited from conflict minerals mined in the DRC. Conflict minerals are used in products worldwide from stoves to smartphones. Poor record keeping and disparate regulations enable armed groups to continue their practices and reap the profits at the expense of local populations. In addition to funding the activities of the armed groups that mine the minerals, conflict minerals are also tied to environmental damage like erosion and pollution and inciting violence between local peoples over access to and control of the mineral deposits.
UN member states unanimously endorsed Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights in 2011, which obligate states to protect against human rights abuses within their territory, including abuses perpetrated by corporations and other third parties. The Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development, comprised of 35 member countries, has also issued guidance on responsible sourcing for companies, which is recognized as an international standard. In addition to these international policies, several states and regional bodies, including the United States, China, the DRC, Rwanda, and the European Union, have adopted regulations governing the use of conflict minerals at the domestic level.
It will be the role of this committee to analyze the existing regulatory framework governing conflict minerals and determine whether it has been successful to-date. The committee should also consider whether additional regulation is needed at the international level, and/or whether more states should be encouraged to adopt domestic regulations.
UN OHCHR Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights
OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas
EU Conflict Minerals Regulation Overview