FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Deborah Hakes, 404-420-5124
Read the statement in French (PDF).
The Carter Center welcomes recent steps taken by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to advance the review of natural resource contracts negotiated during and immediately following its years of deadly conflict. The government's effort to inform companies of problems in the contracts and invite them into a process to address these problems is a promising development that merits international support.
Billions of dollars worth of natural resource contracts were concluded by the DRC before any elected government was in place to lend them legitimacy. The agreements were made without independent valuation. Many lack basic provisions to insure that mining companies fulfill their limited obligations or protections against pricing practices to insure that companies acknowledge the real benefits of their operations. In a time of extraordinary prices in the metals market, there are almost no provisions to ensure an equitable sharing of windfall profits with the country and its people.
Since democratic elections in 2006, The Carter Center has worked to promote a review of these agreements to ensure that the people of the DRC realize the benefit to which they are entitled. In cooperation with Columbia Law School and the law firm Ropes & Gray, the Center conducted an independent study of some of the contracts covering the most significant deposits and recommended steps for the government to address the current situation expeditiously and with respect for the rule of law.
The Carter Center review confirmed severe and widespread problems in the mining contracts. John Reboul, of counsel at Ropes & Gray, which analyzed five of the major contracts in detail for The Carter Center, described them as "some of the most one-sided agreements I have seen in 30 years of practice." This view is supported by third party analyses, which also point to significant procedural irregularities in concluding the contracts, as well as material default in performance of contractual obligations.
To succeed in addressing these problems, the DRC requires the support and assistance of the international community. In other circumstances – including, most recently, in Liberia and in Zambia – this support has been forthcoming. But in the DRC, the international community, including the World Bank and home countries of many mining concerns, has been hesitant to meaningfully support the review. Mining companies have been unwilling to acknowledge even those problems that are manifest and undeniable.
This is, in part, due to shortcomings in the government's own procedures, including a lack of transparency and an absence of clearly articulated policy. The government has not published the criteria on which investments are being judged. Nor has it announced a process for moving forward.
The Carter Center has called on the DRC government to establish a clear structure and process for the completion of the review process, including where appropriate the renegotiation or termination of contracts, and to implement this process in an open and transparent manner. In particular, The Carter Center urges the government to:
The Carter Center also calls on multilateral organizations and foreign governments to:
The Carter Center calls on mining companies to cooperate fully with the review and the renegotiation of the contracts where appropriate. The interests of both the long-suffering people of the Congo and mining company shareholders will benefit from fair and sustainable arrangements help based on international standards of fairness and transparency. Because of the importance of mining to the Congo, this review process should be completed promptly and efficiently.
The Carter Center will continue to work with all interested parties to help implement a successful process for the review of the mining contracts. The Center has recommended procedures to the government that stress consistency, coherence, and legitimacy. The recommendations emphasize transparency and full disclosure as necessary tools to enable both the government and civil society to play a role in holding authorities to account and to insure that the DRC's mineral riches benefit its people.
The Carter Center has observed 69 elections in 27 countries since 1989. The Center is a not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization working to advance peace and health worldwide by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University. Please visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.