The Carter Center is launching the third phase of a project designed to bring transparency to the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the end of this summer.
Although the Congo is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world, with large deposits of copper, gold and precious minerals, the majority of its citizens never see the benifits of their labor, said Sam Jones, the Carter Center’s Human Rights Program associate director.
“The goal is to see more of those revenues going back to the communities instead of foreign companies and corrupt officials,” Mr. Jones told GlobalAtlanta.
Mr. Jones manages the center’s programs in the DRC from Atlanta, including its efforts to reform the Congolese justice system, collaborate with Congolese human rights organizations and shed light on the country’s mining industry.
Located in the southeastern corner of the country, the Katanga Province has been the focus of the Carter Center’s mining initiative that began in 2007 with the help of Columbia Law’s School’s Human Rights Clinic through funding from the Belgium government.
The country has a long and troubled history of exploitation and violence, starting with the vicious rule of King Leopold II of Belgium in 1885, who brutalized the population as his regime fanned his growing rubber supply.
Due to international pressure against the actions of King Leopold, the Belgian government took over control of the Congo in 1908 as a Belgian colony.
Although Congo gained independence in 1960, the country has been plagued by institutional corruption at all levels of government and multiple civil wars since.
And while the Katanga Province is generally thought of as more stable and less corrupt than its northern neighbors, Mr. Jones said, the Carter Center has since found numerous examples of mining contracts in the area that have unfairly benefited government officials and foreign companies.
Moving forward, the Carter Center’s goal is not for the organization to step in directly but to provide local groups with the information necessary to create change from the grassroots level.
“We feel like one way to empower local communities is by making sure they have information about policies and practices that directly impact their lives,” he said.
Toward that goal, the center launched a French-language informational website last October aimed at DRC citizens, non-governmental organizations and mining industry groups with information about employment figures, production data and other financial information about various mines, Mr. Jones said.
The group plans to launch an English sister site later this year as part of its third project phase, which will also include an expansion of the Center’s work in other areas of the DRC and into the gold mining industry.
Mr. Jones said the Carter Center has been somewhat successful in Katanga, including the creation of a model contract for extracting industries and government decrees that dictate mining companies publicly release their contracts and publish their finances quarterly, but believes there is still progress to be made.
“The goal becomes making sure that the profits from these operations are reinvested in Congolese communities, resulting from a government accountable to its citizens and practices by mining companies that do not violate human rights and adhere to international extractive standards — making sure the government complies with those decrees and local actors comply with the government,” he said.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has faced increasing scrutiny by the Carter Center in recent months, most notably in February after analysis of the country’s contested elections revealed a widespread lack of transparency.
The Carter Center also noted last year’s election was marred with “serious irregularities” in the voting and tabulation process, further undermining the credibility of the presidential and legislative results, according to a statement by the center.
Last year marked the second re-election of DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since the death of his father in 2001.
For more information on the French-language mining site, see http://congomines.org.