Remarks by Angel Gurría
23 April 2019 - Paris, France
(As prepared for delivery)
President Bachelet, Ambassador Muburi-Muita, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to open the 13th edition of the Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains. Our work focuses on upholding the core rights of the most exposed populations in mining areas, so your presence today means a lot to us.
For the past eight years, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance has provided the international framework to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral purchasing decisions and practices. The OECD Guidance is global in scope, applies to all mineral supply chains, and is part of the OECD’s broader agenda on responsible business conduct, guided by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and supported by governments through the National Contact Point (NCP) mechanism. The increased uptake and political attention to these instruments are producing important results.
Recent developments in the minerals industry are encouraging. The automotive industry has made new commitments about the responsible sourcing of minerals necessary for electric vehicles. Last year, the London Metal Exchange also proposed introducing OECD-based requirements for producers across all their base metals.
In addition, we are witnessing increasing efforts to promote responsible management of mineral supply chains at the global level through impactful public-private platforms. This includes the European Partnership on Responsible Minerals and the US-led Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade.
Individual governments are also stepping up efforts to regulate and support companies in their undertakings. I am pleased to say that in many of these developments, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance has played – and continues to play – a fundamental role.
For instance, the EU regulation on minerals from conflict areas, adopted in 2017, builds on the OECD Guidance. Colombia, with the OECD’s help, has strengthened its controls on gold trade. The OECD Guidance also helped the Chinese authorities design guidelines laying down due diligence obligations by Chinese companies and allowing for mutual recognition with existing international initiatives and legislations.
Despite these positive achievements, a number of important challenges persist.
Among others, they include gaps in approaches and coverage across countries and supply chains, affecting workers and local communities. The focus continues to be mostly on minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here we welcome the Congolese government’s continued commitment to implement the OECD Guidance and ICGLR mechanism. However, work has only begun in many other mineral producing countries where risks are widespread. And there is an increased sense of urgency to step up efforts in many mineral trading hubs.
In addition, we are seeing mixed evidence on the ground. For example, there are positive signs that the interference of armed groups in tin, tantalum and tungsten mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo has decreased significantly in areas covered by due diligence programmes, although interference in gold mines and other industries (such as forestry, cattle farming and agriculture) remain significant. This has boosted the overall validated exports of these minerals and has led to the integration of 80,000 artisanal miners into responsible global supply chains. However, some reports have claimed that the costs of industry plans have had an overall negative impact on miners’ earnings and on the commercial viability of some local traders and exporters.
To tackle these challenges and understand whether our actions are making a difference in company behaviour, we need to measure the impact we have on the ground. Which is why the OECD is developing a common approach for measuring the impact of the Guidance. If we can analyse the impact of our policies, we can improve our understanding and promote the contributions the industry can make to social and economic development in mining communities.
In addition, it is also crucial for the OECD Guidance to pay more attention to the inclusion of informal miners, and ensure that responsible mineral supply chains also translates into inclusive supply chains. This is why this Friday – for the third year in a row – we will be hosting a workshop, in partnership with the World Bank, focusing on global support to responsible artisanal and small-scale mining. We hope that this will become a global centre of excellence on artisanal mining, a place to co-ordinate and streamline global efforts on inclusive supply chains.
Before I conclude my remarks I wish to emphasise how important it is that all stakeholders respect each other and engage in a constructive and open manner. In particular, civil society contributes in many ways that often complement the roles and functions of both governments and the private sector. Their efforts should be supported and their voices protected, in particular by governments. The OECD is committed to protecting and promoting an inclusive and enabling environment for civil society globally.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mineral supply chains are essential to our everyday life, from the technology we use, our smartphones and computers, to the cars we drive and even the homes we live in. They are also crucial in our efforts to promote a more sustainable and inclusive growth. But their extraction should be undertaken while respecting the rights of all workers, as well as the protection of the environment.
This makes our work on due diligence ever more challenging, more pressing and more relevant. Today’s Forum is a unique opportunity to take our work forward to help us design, develop and deliver better due diligence policies and tools for better lives. Thank you.