November 30, 2010
Re: Public Comments on SEC Regulatory Initiatives under the Dodd-Frank Act - Sec. 1502, Specialized Disclosures on Conflict Minerals
I am President of Open Square Foundation. My passion to end rape in DRC runs deep. And there are multiple issues that cause it.
I've funded research and relief work in North and South Kivu in DRC for several years, and am escalating the scope of my commitment. Since 2008, I've done $2 million in grants to the International Rescue Committee (GBV Director Heidi Lehman) for its gender-based violence (GBV) work in North and South Kivu and smaller grants totaling about $300,000 to Free The Slaves (Kevin Bales) for its slavery research in the mines. I also fund the Enough Project (John Prendergast) and Genocide Intervention Network (Mark Hanis… Has merged with Save Darfur). I funded V-Day (Eve Ensler) for their US public awareness campaign about rape in DRC. I will also fund Human Rights Watch shortly.
Thank you for listening! If the Conflict Minerals law is strategically implemented, it can dramatically shift the dynamics of war, which has plagued eastern DRC far too long. I know that responsibility for ending this conflict lies with the Congolese government, but right now the US has to leverage pressure… We have to lead in lessening the economic advantage of this continued conflict. We CAN do this… Refuse to trade minerals that are funding militias! It's pure cash gain under their control.
Free The Slaves and Congolese human rights organizations have documented multiple forms of modern slavery in mining areas of North Kivu in eastern Congo. These abuses include forced labor and debt bondage- linked directly to miners' work. Child soldiers are well documented, right along with children in prostitution, and rampant sexual slavery. Regulations implementing the DRC Conflict Minerals Act HAS to accomplish the purpose of this legislation to create any real change.
The new DRC Conflict Minerals law requires companies to disclose "due diligence on the source" of conflict minerals originating in the DRC. 15 U.S.C. 78m (p)(1)(A)(i). Due diligence on the source of these minerals must be defined to include a description of efforts to monitor the source of the supply chain for forms of modern slavery and other extreme violations of human rights.
The law provides additional guidance on the meaning of "due diligence on the source" in Sec. 1502(c)(1)(B)(ii), clarifying that due diligence does not simply require the production of written documentation of the chain of custody. Companies affected by the law have to be accountable for how their products contribute to conflict and human rights violations; this includes rape as a tool of war, as well as slavery, at the source for minerals. The State Department is required to provide guidance to companies "seeking to exercise due diligence on and formalize the origin and chain of custody of conflict minerals used in their products and on their suppliers to ensure that conflict minerals used in the products of such suppliers do not directly or indirectly finance armed conflict or result in labor or human rights violations [emphasis added]".
Companies may monitor for slavery and human rights violations directly, or they may require it of their intermediary suppliers who are closer to the source. While I've heard objections from companies that this would be difficult for them to carry out, Congolese human rights organizations regularly perform this type of monitoring. It's not cost-prohibitive.
Please… Champion this law. If you do, people in eastern DRC can live lives free of this violence: Rape WOULD stop, children WOULD be free, and young boys WOULD NO LONGER be kidnapped to perpetuate militias.
Act with boldness: lead.
Wynnette M LaBrosse, President
(650) 321-5533 (o)
Open Square Foundation
"All sides being equal"