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NGO Good Shepherd calls for more commitment from companies to eradicate child labor in DRC

Coinciding with a new Amnesty report on how corporations tackled human rights abuses in the cobalt supply chain of DRC, the NGO Good Shepherd (Bon Pasteur) calls for more commitment from mining companies and battery-makers to eradicate child labor.

SAN FRANCISCO and ROME, Italy (November 15, 2017)

Bon Pasteur (Good Shepherd) is the only NGO in the cobalt-rich area of Kolwezi (DRC) effectively working to eliminate child labor in the province’s artisanal and small-scale mining communities, which provide essential raw materials for the electronic and automotive industries and where human rights abuses are still prevalent. We applaud the work of Amnesty International for once again bringing attention on human right violations in the cobalt supply chain, and add our voice to say: not enough is being done by corporations working in the region to improve the serious situation within artisanal mining communities. Too many companies are still failing to take even basic steps to change their 
cobalt human rights due diligence policies and practices for a responsible sourcing

Amnesty's report “Time to Recharge” just released follows on from their January, 2016 investigation which exposed how major companies, such as Apple, Daimler AG, Dell, Volkswagen, Microsoft, Samsung and Huawei, failed to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had not been used in their products. And today, almost two years after Amnesty first shined a spotlight on the human rights abuses in the cobalt supply chain, we’ve seen that only a few companies have taken positive steps to clean up their cobalt supply chains. There is much more to be done. Child labor, plus adults mining cobalt in hazardous conditions, continues to exist.

“While we appreciate the new spirit of corporate openness and collaboration, companies with a stake in this region have been very slow to address the obvious – that extreme poverty, hazardous working conditions and little to no oversight lead to child labor and other major human rights abuses on girls and women in the mining communities where cobalt is extracted,” said Cristina Duranti, Director of Good Shepherd International, in Rome.

“The corporate report card is far from satisfactory. Only a few companies have committed resources to address this problem at its roots. And these resources are tiny when compared to the incredible wealth that all companies continue to extract, and profits they continue to generate, from copper and cobalt mining in this region. The disparity is staggering.”

Having succeeded in taking over 1,000 children out of the copper-cobalt mines, in the past five years, Bon Pasteur Kolwezi plans to support 4,500 children from seven villages around Kolwezi to quit hazardous work in the mines by 2022, helping them and their families secure education and training that will lead to safe, alternative livelihoods.

“Only through a comprehensive community-based approach to reduce poverty and improve governance, can we expect to eradicate child labor from the cobalt mining sites of Kolwezi,” said Catherine Mutindi, Program Director of Bon Pasteur Kolwezi. “The impact of this approach can be seen at our base of operation in the mining site of Kanina, an impoverished mining community that’s home to several thousand. Here, for the first time in memory, children have thrown down their sacks and shovels and have picked up books. When we first arrived here five years ago, the parents were desperate. They told us they feared their children would die in the mines. We started this program to first save the children. It’s now grown to involve the entire community. But we’re just one small program. While we have achieved good results in one community, many more communities need help. We would ask that companies with a stake in the cobalt supply chain and government here consider filling that gap. Congo’s cobalt supply chain is broken. The lives of Congo’s most vulnerable pay the price for that.” 

About BP Kolwezi

In the past first five years, Bon Pasteur has been the most effective NGO in Kolwezi in preventing human rights abuses in artisanal cobalt mining communities, helping more than 5,000 people – mostly children, girls and women-- escape the harsh life of the mines to attend schools, build alternative livelihoods and build more secure communities.

More specifically, since 2012, the Bon Pasteur program in Kolwezi has accomplished:

·       1,134 children miners have quit work in the cobalt mines. They go to school and enjoy improved health and nutrition;

·       Bon Pasteur children are safer. They’ve taken responsibility to educate other youth from neighboring communities about their rights and the dangers of working in the mines.

·       300 women have quit dangerous work in the mines to gain skills through income-generating initiatives such as in one of three farming coops. They report having improved physical and psychological health, plus they’ve increased their families’ food security and income.

·       300 girls are engaged in skills trainings and dignified income-generating activities;

·       The ASM community of Kanina is more unified and peaceful. Its residents are more aware of their rights and are capable of holding government and mining companies accountable to provide basic infrastructure and services;

·       Columbia University professor Mark Canavera is leading a research project to document BP’s child protection model for replication elsewhere in DR Congo.

 

To implement its new plan, aiming at taking 4,700 children out of the mines and in the schools and give 4,000 women and girls skills and access to alternative livelihoods, Bon Pasteur needs significant investment and support and collaboration from all stakeholders, upstream and downstream companies within the cobalt supply-chain, Government and other NGOs.

 

For more information about the Bon Pasteur Project in Kolwezi, please see www.fondazionebuonpastore.org/congo

 

EDITORS

To arrange interviews with please contact:

Cristina Duranti Cristina.d@gssweb.org

Catherine Mutindi catherinemutindi@gmail.com

 

The Bon Pasteur project was featured in the 2015 award-winning documentary “Maisha: a New Life Outside the Mines” that was awarded at the 2016 Barcelona Human Rights Film Festival and played at more than 10 film festivals around the world.

www.maishafilm.com

 

photo credit: © Amnesty International and Afrewatch.