Historically, American political leaders have defined the rights of slaves, industrial workers and undocumented laborers, always looking to balance economic growth with human dignity. Today's American economy stretches to every corner of the globe…
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Today's American economy stretches to every corner of the globe. It is the responsibility of the Senate to offer Enlightened Humanitarian conditions to the economic periphery. I am here today to remind the Senate committee about African human rights abuses which are unwittingly funded by American consumers through the trade of conflict minerals. The Senate first inspected the Congolese mineral trade in columbite-tantalite, cassiterite and wolframite in 2009. Senator Brownback sponsored S.891, titled “Congo Conflict Minerals Act.” This bill cites experts at humanitarian organizations, public health officials, economists and the United Nations. The consensus opinion condemns the Congolese mineral trade and the violence which it funds. The bill called for tighter economic control of conflict minerals in America. In the Congo, violent military forces are profiting from the trade in conflict minerals. These forces “continue to commit widespread human rights abuses” including “sexual violence and rape” (S.891, Sec. 2 (2), (4)). Sadly, the bill died in committee and American consumers have continued to unknowingly fund the violence in Africa. The Senate should do everything in its power to diminish the trade in conflict minerals. These actions should not be limited to economic sanctions, tariffs, political declarations or consumer education. This serious situation requires a broad approach based in the same Senate mandate that spurred humanitarian regulations of slaves, diamonds, child laborers and even green house gas emissions. Africa has long been the a source of raw materials for colonial nations. The Belgian King Leopold II first founded the Congo in the 19th century as a colonial asset. While Leopold's brutal regime was based in extracting rubber, the current crisis comes from military leaders funded by conflict minerals. (Polgreen). America consumes these materials as finished goods. Consumers must be made cognizant of the ecological and human costs of this neo-Colonial relationship. New York Times columnist Lydia Polgreen described conflict minerals as “Africa's resource curse: The wealth is unearthed by the poor, controlled by the strong, then sold to a world largely oblivious of its origins” (Polgreen). Ethical consumers must be made aware of these origins. What can the Senate do to regulate American trade in conflict minerals? Two years ago, Senator Brownback would have required manufacturers which use conflict minerals to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (S. 891). In 2009, the primary concern was the identification of conflict minerals. Today we need to also educate American citizens about the humanitarian cost of consumption. Hopefully this knowledge will allow consumers to regulate their purchase of conflict minerals within the free market. While American consumers are often ethical, sometimes policymakers need to help define the nations economic scope, humanitarian obligations and ecological impact. America is an Enlightened nation with many trading partners. We are all responsible for the well being of the individuals who live on the periphery of our economic influence. We are quick to give philanthropic aid to African nations through the IMF and World Bank. On December 1 of this year, President Obama and this congress guaranteed $48 billion to Africa as part of the “President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.” This money will be spent over the next five years (Freeman). Our ethical consumption can mirror our humanitarian aid. Conflict minerals fund sexual violence in the Congo, here American consumption needs to be regulated in order line up with our
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