Argumentative techniques in the ‘conflict minerals’ debate

The Enough Project, one of the major lobbyists in favour of Dodd Frank Section 1502, has gathered 27 other signatories to co-publish another reply (after 28 Congolese Kivutian civil society organisations and PACT) to the open letter published by 72 Congolese and international stakeholders in September 2014 (For further details, see – among many others – here and here).

This analytic rebuttal represents the author’s point of view and may or may not reflect that of the 72 open letter signatories.

Like the others, the Enough Project acknowledges the main suggestions brought forward by the initial open letter, while it insinuates factual inaccuracies without providing meaningful background for such claims. Enough argues on the basis of one numerical fact used (8% of conflicts linked to natural resources in the DRC) that no public sources are provided. Given this document is a protected source and the study a confidential UN document that has been provided to signatories of the open letter this is rather self-explaining. Rather than that, the debate would benefit from constructive challenging of such a figure.

More so, the Enough Project itself has a long history of using numbers and statistics (which are always incomplete and partial – even the best mapping exercises like those of IPIS – check their most recent mapping exercise) in an even more partial and often misleading way to fit their claims. On that basis, the reproach made by Enough on that basis appears  inconsistent with their own work.

To give but one example, upon publication of their latest comprehensive report on Dodd-Frank 1502 implementation in eastern Congo, the organisation disingenuously argued in public statements that 2/3 of eastern Congo’s 3T mines ‘are now conflict-free’. This assertion was based on the then IPIS mapping (with IPIS, a thinktank with a much more credible and unpoliticised track record, underlining the partial nature of their mapping) and Enough’s extrapolations for which the organisation never provided any methodology or credible argument. Asked how they could come to such a conclusion, Enough failed to provide a response. Claiming that 2/3 of eastern Congo’s 3T mines ‘are now conflict-free’ is misleading and erroneous at the same time:

First of all, no one – an Enough in particular – has credible data on whether all mines have been ‘conflict-affected’ at any point of time. Given the observation the two Kivus alone harbour far over 1000 (800+ in South Kivu alone, while North Kivu is yet to come up with statistics on this) mining sites, it is far more probable than not that even in the heydays of the so-called Second Congo war armed actors have not been able (and probably not even interested given the respective trade off in terms of investment) to control all mines.

Secondly, recent field research has shown that even certain sites validated as green or already included into the traceability schemes suffer from continued (whether sporadic or chronic) armed interference. This is not to allude to generic ‘conflict minerals’ narratives, this is simply to show the complexity of the the politico-economic sphere and military-civilian interaction in the region. Enough has – much more in the past, but in limited ways until today – repeatedly failed to understand, conceptualise, and address these complexities in its advocacy and analysis.

As a third point, Enough behaves utterly paternalistic and aligns to post-colonial schemes of explanation by insinuating it is thanks to the benevolent Western intervention that ‘now’ 2/3 of the mines are ‘conflict-free’. This includes a temporal-evolutionist argument as well as a imperial claim to define from the global north what conflict means and what not. It is hence reminiscent of what Edward Said has described for other parts of the world in ‘Orientalism’.

Fourth, and lastly, while Enough’s unverifiable and tenuous 2/3 claim is supportive to the Congolese people in the sense that it discoursely supports the quicker and larger implementation of traceability and certification (and thereby helping to address the exclusionary system Dodd-Frank 1502 and concomitant initiatives created in the first place), it continues to maintain the inverse ‘in dubio pro reo’ logic whereby Congolese need to prove the absence of conflict in a given mine. Bearing in mind the Western origin of the ‘conflict minerals’ campaign, a vastly fairer and supportive approach would have been to ban mines once it is proven they are affected by violent modes of exploitation instead of putting all mines and miners under general suspicion.

Enough’s response also accuses the letter of lacking context and and supportive evidence. If maintained, this claim seems to omit numerous references the letter and its accompanying arguments and texts have been making towards seminal publications in the frame of critical academic research. Enough fails to deliver precisions as to the claims made.

However – and turning back time for some 5 years, the Enough Project has massively improved the quality of its analysis. While it ran infamous and tasteless YouTube videos (if you are a fan of bitter irony, it is a ‘fun’ watch though) aimed at constructing a causal link between sexual violence, child/slave labour and mineral exploitation (which has been convincingly deconstructed by all sorts of academic research), the organisation tremendously enhanced its research work ever since. It would be great if this development further continued and Enough would become more transparent about their claims and intentions.

2 Responses to “Argumentative techniques in the ‘conflict minerals’ debate”
  1. Chi says:

    As someone that lives in the West I am working towards deconstructing the casual link between sexual violence and mineral exploitation. I have read information presented by you, Jason Stearns, Soraya and a study carried out by Sonke & Promundo which is doing a great job at broadening the narrative. Could you please point me in the direction of the academic research done?

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Christoph Vogel has discussed these statistics before, arguing that they are incomplete and not an accurate reflection of the situation in the eastern DRC.  This is primarily true, and much of this blog post discusses why these statistics do little to suggest Dodd-Frank 1502 is working.  Above all, the use of these statistics to support the success of Dodd-Frank is limited by the decline of 3T mining.  All three of the statistics focus on 3T mining, which now constitutes a small portion of natural resource exploitation in the eastern DRC, and as a result the statistics are relatively insignificant.  While the shift from 3T mining to gold mining can largely be attributed to Dodd-Frank, the last section of this blog post will discuss why that does not mean Dodd-Frank has been successful. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: