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Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has an immense wealth of natural resources. But instead of driving development, these riches are benefiting predatory elites, armed groups and cowboy firms. Read more

Despite striking huge mining deals in recent years and ramping up its output of minerals, the Congolese people has benefitted little from its natural resources. DRC has one of the lowest GDPs per capita in the world, and sits near the bottom of the UN’s 2019 Human Development Index. What’s more, the Congo Basin forest - the world’s second largest rainforest and home to millions of Congolese people who depend on it for their survival - is under threat from industrial loggers.

Global Witness has been campaigning for over 15 years alongside Congolese NGOs for the responsible management of the DRC’s forestscopper and cobaltgold and other mineral resources in the interests of its people rather than elites, cowboy companies and warring factions.

In eastern DRC, we have exposed how armed groups profited from the mineral trade by directly exploiting artisanal mines or levying illegal taxes. Although conflict and trading dynamics have changed in recent years, armed taxation and control of mining areas persists in some mineral-rich areas.  Meanwhile, huge multinational mining companies are investing heavily in the country’s copper belt. DRC is also a crucial global source of cobalt, increasingly valuable due to its importance in renewable technology. Yet citizens have not seen the benefit of this boom as money paid to the state-owned mining company routinely goes missing.

Our influential research into the exploitation of DRC’s resources has helped prompt both domestic and international responses. The US passed landmark legislation in 2010, known as the Dodd Frank Act Section 1502, requiring US-listed companies to carry out supply chain due diligence on minerals sourced from DRC and nine neighbouring countries. Several other countries have brought in due diligence and supply chain requirements as a result of our wider work on responsible mineral sourcing.

And individuals named in our exposés have been brought to justice. Middleman Dan Gertler - who profited while the country lost out on at least $1.36m through secret sales via offshore companies – has been sanctioned by the U.S. for “corrupt mining and oil deals”, while major companies that worked with him are under investigation for corruption in the UK and US.

In addition to our work on the country’s mineral trade, we have exposed how vast quantities of timber is illegally harvested in DRC and sold on international markets such as China, Vietnam and the EU. Our research into these timber supply chains has prompted investigations under the EU Timber Regulation, laws that aim to curb EU imports of illegal wood. Meanwhile, together with other civil society groups, we have campaigned for the maintenance and respect of DRC’s moratorium on the allocation of industrial logging concessions.

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