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War and Trade

Humphrey HawksleyConflict minerals are about war, rape, massacres and corruption. Trade is about working hard and following the law. Trade is about hope for a better life: to feed our family, to get an education for our children or to take care of the family's health.

In 1951 the European Coal and Steel Agreement under the US auspices designed an agreement to stop the nations of Europe from going to war again. For many people of Eastern Europe since 1990 they have been thinking if I go to work, follow the law and do well I can become a member of the European Union and that was the beacon for them that gave them hope for the future.

In China Deng Xiao Peng said to become rich is glorious - brought so many out of poverty. They knew what they were getting out of bed for every day. It is a trade based initiative that has provided hope for development. ASEAN has had the same purpose and has enabled the Asian tigers to grow.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo there is no beacon that I can see. I have been looking for some time. So what you get is cycles of conflict. DRC is unique in this situation. In the past 20 years you said 5 million killed. I had heard 9 million. A lot of people have been killed, more than since the second world war. The potential of wealth we heard today is $24 trillion. For 20 years it has been unequally shared. The technological transparency Conflict Mineral Session - London ELCwe have  in the global business environment today is that the miners down in the mines are using cell phones. The consumers are also pushing companies and governments to come to their moral senses on these things.  The Multi-National Corporations themselves are having to be accountable. There are Multi-National Corporations with Directors on the Board who realise they have to do the right thing. There are good and bad directors.

The Multi-National Corporations has to override the concept that has been around for 20 years that they are operating under the rule of law of the sovereign country because that does not work. 

What is the point of taking all the warlords to court if it does not achieve anything in the end. If there is no hope for the families living in a peaceful nation still in poverty.

The Government of the sovereign country is corrupt. It pockets money. It keeps people poor. It is in these circumstances that you come to some very unpalatable questions and challenges. Until they are answered you will not get peace. That is how to create a system that will allow this transition from bad trade to good trade. In some cases you say from dictatorship to democracy. We need to move to a system of government that will deliver for their people because in the last 20 years holding elections will not do the business. It gives power to the elite. The colonial stigma is not going to do the business because the people will not accept it. The Multi-National Corporations in my view could do a little bit more because of just taking the gold out of the mines in Bukavu and Goma etc. they could build the factories that make the laptops. If you build ten factories five might get blown up. They have to be written off but five might make it. They would need to have the guts to do it. But that is the beacon. Other things would have to change. If you are exporting to the EU the tariffs are 70% but if you put it through Dubai you pay nothing. At the end of this 20 years we have to look forward and try to make something that works. 

You need that beacon. The EU can do the job very well. There needs to be an acceptance that there is a fairness and a legitimacy in the overarching umbrella. Europe accepted America after World War II. China accepted the Communist party.

Democracy is a hope. It is not a system of government. Once we understand this we can move forward.