NGOs say new legislation can aid in ending “natural resource trade fueling conflict” 

A group of 58 non-government organizations from different parts of the world urged the European Commission to pass a “strong and effective” legislation that will “prevent European businesses [from] fueling conflict and human rights abuses through their purchases of natural resources” which include gold, tin, diamonds among others.

In a joint position paper, Breaking the links between natural resources and conflict: The case for EU regulation published on September 16, the group of civil society organizations laid down key factors that an EU regulation should have in order to ensure that businesses operating within EU’s jurisdiction, targeting mainly European firms’ supply chain, “are not causing or contributing to human rights abuses, directly or indirectly.”

Trade in natural resources mainly minerals and precious stones, according to the group, “has played a central role in funding and fuelling some of the world’s most brutal conflicts” that continue to impact on the daily lives of people in resource rich countries namely Congo, Colombia, Burma, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic, “where violence is a major obstacle to development.”

As the Commission is expected to publish draft legislation by the end of 2013, the group of NGOs called on the EU to not miss the opportunity to “require EU-based companies to carry out supply chain checks that meet international due diligence standards developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).”

The group underlined that the EU, being the world’s largest trading bloc, is in a good position “to influence global supply chains and promote transparent and responsible sourcing in other jurisdictions.” They argued that doing due diligence will also benefit European businesses by ensuring that companies are not funding wars and will allow trade to continue but not at the expense of gross human rights violations.

The group recommends that the Commission’s draft legislation:

  • Applies to all natural resources originating in any conflict-affected and high-risk area;
  • Is based on relevant international instruments, including the International Bill of Human Rights, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas;
  • Takes a risk-based approach that considers impacts on individuals and communities;
  • Complements existing EU initiatives and legislation to promote transparency and sustainable development and forms part of a comprehensive approach to prevent environmental destruction, reinforce governance and encourage security sector and mining reform in natural resource-rich developing countries.

Among the Philippine NGOs that are signatories to the position paper are Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and Workers Assistance Center. To view full position paper and for a complete list of signatories go here.###