THE BLOG

The EU Has Acted on Minerals That Underwrite Modern Slavery

21/06/2016 12:23 | Updated 21 June 2016

After years of campaigning, the European Union has agreed an outline deal to combat the unchecked trade in natural resources, which fuels some of the world's most brutal conflicts, underwriting child labour, sexual violence and modern slavery.

Minerals such as tantalum, tungsten and tin - widely used in a range of electronic goods like mobile phones and laptops here in the UK - are funding violent armed groups who carry out human rights abuses.

Labour MEPs have been crucial in securing these measures. As the S&D's spokesperson on the Development Committee, I pushed for and won mandatory measures that made these rules compulsory, not voluntary.

We got rules that included the wider supply chain, including smelters, so any company who puts a product onto the EU market must carry out the necessary checks. After months of campaigning, I'm delighted these have made it into the final deal.

The new rules will put mandatory measures on importers to ensure the metals they source do not contribute to the funding of conflicts or militant groups, a practice which has blighted areas like the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The EU is the world's biggest single market and this agreement sets a groundbreaking precedent that will deliver tangible improvements in the world's supply chain of conflict minerals and the people's lives it blights.

Britain could not have hoped to achieve anything like this on it's own. With 500m people and almost 17% of the world's GDP, collective action across the European Union amplifies our influence and offers greater muscle in fighting this reprehensible industry.

In my previous work for Action Aid, I witnessed the damage to the lives of people living in areas exploited for these minerals. I saw how Western consumers could unknowingly affect and afflict some of the poorest people in the world. With these news rules in place, consumers in the UK can have the confidence that the products they buy do not contribute to the suffering of others.

At a time when collective European Union action is being called into question, this is a good news story that shows how we are better able to tackle issues in some of the poorest countries in the world collectively, not alone.

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