Op-ed: Dodd-Frank Section 1502

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been plagued by one of the world’s most deadly conflicts. With over 5.4 million dead, the situation in Congo represents the largest death toll due to one cause since World War II. In recent years, the United States has taken important steps to support and end the conflict, but today some of those steps are at risk of significant backtracking.

The conflict in the DRC is multifaceted and complex, and has continued for over two decades. However, one factor that continues to sustain the conflict is the presence of conflict minerals including tungsten, tin, tantalum, and gold ore, all of which are found in the DRC and have been a lucrative source of income for armed groups who prolong the conflict. These minerals are in especially high demand as they are used in the production of consumer electronics, such as tablets, phones, and computers. Industrialized countries purchase the minerals, and rather than contributing to economic vitality, the profits often fuel the acquisition of weapons and ammunition, exacerbating the deep rooted conflict.

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed into law. This law included a particular provision, Section 1502, aimed at promoting responsible sourcing practices through increased transparency in company supply chains. Section 1502 requires publicly traded companies to annually disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission the details of their supply chains in regards to conflict mineral acquisition. While the law does not require companies to source conflict-free minerals, the public nature of the reporting has sparked many companies to take action to trace, audit and certify their supply chains and work to source minerals that are contributing to peace rather than conflict in the DRC. Many major brand companies including Intel and Apple, have taken strides to ensure their products are not promoting violence.

Unfortunately, the current Administration, Congress, and the Securities and Exchange Commission have all indicated recently that they are considering repealing or weakening Section 1502. I must stress the vitality of this law. Transparency not only holds companies accountable for their practices, but promotes a conflict-free market. This helps artisanal miners on the ground in the DRC by increasingly providing legitimate employment options and cutting off critical resources to armed groups. Consumer pressure is only effective if there are mechanisms of transparency in place, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act is accomplishing this by pushing companies to investigate and report on whether their supply chains are fueling conflict. If the law is repealed or watered down, much of the progress that has occurred since 2010 will remain stagnant or even digress. As a student, this rule is very important to me. I have worked on the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative for over two years with the Enough Project, located in Washington, D.C.. I have seen many universities such as Duke, Stanford and McGill, as well as my own school district, pass resolutions expressing the importance of a conflict-free market. Therefore, I urge that Section 1502 be maintained, so it can continue to yield progress and promote peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

–Ellen Bresnick

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