If you use a cell phone or computer, you're probably connected -- whether you know it or not -- to the long-standing conflict in Eastern Congo. Minerals mined there -- from tin, tungsten, and tantalum to gold -- find their way into many of devices we use every day (including at this moment, if you're reading this online). Many of the mines in Eastern Congo are run by outlaw militias that are destabilizing the region -- killing countless people, mass-raping women and girls, terrorizing and displacing populations, perpetuating the world's most deadly but least publicized war. Just as buying foreign oil and dirty diamonds can unintentionally aid and abet terrorist organizations, almost every high-tech purchase has, until now, helped fund some of the most vicious, lawless, violent people and organizations on earth in the Congo.
But this week, the President will sign into law the Financial Reform Bill, passed by Congress last week. And thanks to the good work of thousands of activist citizens -- many of them mobilized by the Enough Campaign -- that bill not only seeks to reform Wall Street, but it contains a Congo-minerals related provision. An Enough Campaign posting explains:
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... the bill requires companies to audit these reports to actually prove whether they are sourcing from conflict mines or not.
Many of us are disappointed that the reform bill didn't go farther in strengthening accountability for powerful financial entities. But whether we're dealing with the development of our own character or with the improvement of our nation's economic policy, we need to celebrate small, incremental steps in the right direction as well as major conversions and breakthroughs. The same goes for ending the horrible conflict in Congo, as the Enough article explains:
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.
In the future, because of incremental steps like these, achieved through lots of people and organizations working slow-but-persistent political processes, you won't have to wonder who was forced into slavery, driven from their land, or raped, killed, or terrorized in order for your cell phone to function. So this is a good day, a good thing to celebrate, another step forward in our journey to justice. There's more work to be done on so many fronts, but first, it's a good time to pause and appreciate the people who worked on all our behalf for this important moment.
Follow Brian D. McLaren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brianmclaren