This is a letter sent to the advocacy team at Catholic Relief Services from Catholics Confront Global Poverty.
The Senate yesterday afternoon passed the financial reform bill that includes several critical provisions that Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and the Catholic community in the United States along with many others have been advocating for over many months. While neither CRS nor USCCB have taken a position on the overall financial reform bill, the inclusion of provisions dealing with natural resources extraction in the developing world greatly advances our objectives to address global poverty and conflict. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law soon.
One provision deals specifically with the horrific situation in the DRC. It requires companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to report on what they are doing to assure that the metals they use in their products are not financing violence in the eastern Congo, including regular audits. It will also allow companies to label goods as “conflict mineral-free” and directs the U.S. government to develop a strategy that addresses the links between human rights abuses and minerals from the Congo, and the products that we use.
Additional provisions that reach beyond the Congo require companies to disclose the payments they make to foreign governments for the natural resources they extract. This greater transparency will help local communities to hold their governments accountable for how the income generated by natural resources is used to benefit the common good in their countries.
In his most recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI notes the need for “institutional means” to better regulate natural resource extraction-a process which often “gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations. These conflicts are often fought on the soil of those same countries, with a heavy toll of death, destruction and further decay” (no. 49).
Passage of these provisions is a great victory for all of us who seek peace, justice, and global solidarity with our sisters and brothers overseas.
God bless you for your solidarity,
Your Catholics Confront Global Poverty team
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