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Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a vast country with an immense wealth of natural resources. But instead of driving development, these riches have attracted all kinds of predators – from armed groups to cowboy firms. Read more

Congo has one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world despite striking a series of huge mining deals in recent years and ramping up its output of minerals. It also sits second from the bottom of the UN’s 2014 Human Development Index.

Congo’s population has benefitted little from its resources. Millions of people live in the forests of Congo Basin – the world’s second largest rainforest and the world’s second lung – and depend on it for their survival. But it is under threat from industrial scale loggers.

In the east of the country, armed groups profit from the mineral trade by directly exploiting artisanal mines or levying illegal taxes. It is estimated that over half of the artisanal miners in eastern Congo work in mines where armed groups are present (2013).

For over ten years Global Witness has campaigned for responsible management of the country’s forests, diamonds, gold and other mineral resources. These resources should be managed in the interests of Congo’s people, rather than primarily benefiting the country’s elite, companies and warring factions.

Global Witness has conducted influential research on the exploitation of Congo’s natural resources. We helped uncover the secret sales of major mining sites via offshore companies, through which the country lost out on at least $1.36 billion between 2010 and 2012. This is almost twice Congo’s annual spending on health and education.  We have also exposed how Congo’s timber reserves are smuggled out of the country as illegal wood, which has led to the seizures in European ports.

Our research on conflict minerals has helped prompt an international response. The US passed landmark legislation in 2010, known as the Dodd Frank Act Section 1502, requiring US-listed companies to carry out due diligence on minerals sourced from Congo, and neighbouring countries. Several African countries, including Congo and Rwanda, have legislation in place requiring companies to undertake supply chain checks. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CCCMC) has recently developed guidelines for social responsibility for its companies operating abroad, including a due diligence requirement, and the EU is bringing in new conflict minerals regulations.