I have focused most of my writing on my time in Mongu. While it was a fantastic experience, the reason I made my way to Zambia was for a conference in Lusaka. I spent most of my time in the city.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and CAFOD, the UK equivalent, organized a groundbreaking conference focused on the extractives industry in Southern Africa. Have a lost you?
Why this industry and this region? Remember the movie Blood Diamonds, with Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, today there is a similar issue with certain minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The “3 T’s” (tin, tantalum, and tungsten) and gold are fueling a civil war, and are referred to as conflict minerals. Groups like ENOUGH! provide great information about what is happening on the ground and what we as consumers can do. One of the best books I have EVER read was authored by the group’s founders, Not On Our Watch.
While the concerns around conflict minerals are not solved, there have been great steps forward. The Dodd-Frank Act last year contained two pieces related to the issue. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now write new rules for public companies that will require them to prove that they are not using conflict minerals.
As for the rest of Africa? That is why we had this conference! Africa is rich in natural minerals and resources. Yet, the local people do not always benefit from these resources. Our conference pulled together NGOs, CSOs, company representatives, and others to begin to talk through the issues. We learned about Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, and how to utilize it before an operation begins; we learned about international laws and remediation tactics; we studied conflict resolution; and heard about great groups like EITI.
I have not been to a conference so well run and so rich with wisdom! (Trust me, I spend much of my time in conferences!) It was incredible to bring 100 people from 13 countries together to strategize on such a complex, yet crucial issue.
So, while I have spent much of my time here reflecting on my time outside the conference, I need to stress how wonderful the working time itself was. As the Bishop said as he lead us in prayer… “take care of nature, and nature will take care of you”. We are working on that!