With a grant from the GE Foundation, BSR is exploring ways for companies to partner with key stakeholders to support local-development and capacity-building efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Companies, in partnership with civil society and government representatives, can play a role in supporting targeted and strategic social initiatives that address local-development needs in the region. A number of companies have already joined a wide range of actors to drive progress toward stopping the indirect financing of armed rebel groups through mine-certification schemes and mineral traceability. But while there is much to be said of these important efforts to create a clean and legitimate minerals trade, the multi-stakeholder response should also go beyond supply chain traceability and focus more attention on the millions of livelihoods that depend on the artisanal mining sector.
BSR held a series of conversations with stakeholders—including companies, international aid and advocacy NGOs, local civil society organizations, and governments—on how to expand the response to conflict minerals, and how companies could best contribute. There are a range of opportunities for companies, including: supporting the development of alternative livelihoods such as agriculture, building small-scale mining capacity, improving mining conditions, or developing vital infrastructure that enables development.
The following recommendations can guide companies’ efforts in the DRC:
- Focus on people. There is a need for company support for activities that increase opportunities for viable economic alternatives for the people of eastern Congo.
- Foster systemic change. Humanitarian initiatives are important, but there is a need to focus on development to help communities move out of poverty.
- Invest innovatively. In addition to financial contributions, companies can bring their skills and expertise, influence and networks, and products and services to address local needs.
- Work in collective partnerships. Collaborative models that focus on long-term solutions rather than one-to-one partnerships have a greater likelihood of addressing systemic problems.
- Incorporate local voices. Any dialogue that affects the welfare of the Congolese people should incorporate input and seek buy-in from local Congolese stakeholders.
- Work on the ground. Companies should establish partnerships that include local Congolese government and civil society representatives.
Expanding the response to support people, coupled with the response to develop systems, will increase the likelihood of achieving greater stability and peace in the region.