STAND WITH CONGO: The West’s campaign against conflict minerals is doing more harm than good – by Ben Radly (Quartz Africa – April 20, 2016)

In recent years Western advocacy groups have achieved unprecedented success in mobilizing Europeans and North Americans behind a “conflict minerals” campaign to help end the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

They have also attracted strong criticism, both internationally and in the DRC, for the perceived negative impact of their work. Over the past three years I have been working on a documentary, “We Will Win Peace”, which is part of this critique. As one local activist told us during the making of the film, “The advocacy led by these organizations, we [didn’t] understood the goal, as Congolese… If we had been informed before of their intentions, we could have done something.”

Similarly, speaking to a group of small-scale rural cultivators, one said, “We didn’t understand what was happening or why such a decision had been made… No one explained to us what was going on.”

So what was the goal, and what is going on? It is important not to conflate the work of all DRC-focused advocacy organizations under the same umbrella. But central to the success of the “conflict minerals” campaign was the emergence of a dominant narrative that placed Western consumers at the heart of the solution.

A key element of the storyline is that armed groups in the eastern DRC are raping women to access and control mineral resources. If Western consumers exerted pressure on electronic giants like Apple and Samsung to stop buying these minerals, they could prevent rape and help end the conflict.

In the US, celebrities and sports stars are engaged by organizations such as the Enough Project and Stand With Congo to help promote the campaign. The message appeals particularly strongly to student groups and middle-and upper-class liberals.

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