There’s a good chance that the smartphone in your pocket contains cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Cobalt is an essential component of cell phones, laptops, and many electric cars. Its mining provides Congolese people a vital source of income, but the industry is rife with corruption and human rights abuses, including child labor, forced evictions, and water and soil pollution. This makes the work of AFREWATCH, a research and advocacy organization based in DRC’s Katanga province, critical as a champion of the rights of mining workers and their communities.
In November 2021, AFREWATCH was recognized as the 2021 awardee of the Human Rights and Business Award Foundation. The award, presented at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, was given in recognition of their work pushing for transparency and accountability with both the government and mining companies, plus their efforts to help communities organize and advocate for their rights.
Launched in 2013, AFREWATCH monitors and documents companies’ adherence to CSR commitments and regulations, such as the new mining code that gives miners a greater say in decision making. It also trains communities on forming local development committees that can advocate with mining companies on their behalf. AFREWATCH’s website is a go-to resource for the latest developments and data on mining-related human rights issues in the DRC.
AFREWATCH received its first grant from the Fund in 2014 less than a year after the DRC group’s launch, reflecting our strategy of identifying and nurturing up-and-coming groups with tremendous potential. Says AFREWATCH Executive Director Emmanuel Umpula, “We are very grateful to the Fund who first believed in the idea of creating AFREWATCH. Funding a young organization is a big responsibility, but the Fund had believed in the idea without considering the risks. At AFREWATCH, we believe this victory is entirely yours.”
The Fund is proud to support AFREWATCH for seven years, providing it with the flexible financial support to grow and opportunities to collaborate with mining-focused groups in other regions.