This year, the 10,000 CHF SNIS Award for the best thesis in international relations was attributed ex-aequo. One of the theses was “Conflict Minerals, Inc. – Transnational Regulation, Fragmented Authority and Violent Resource Networks in Eastern Congo”, authored by Christoph Vogel.
PhD Thesis defended at the University of Zurich, under the supervision of Prof. Timothy Raeymakers.
Debates on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo) often focus on the role of so-called ‘conflict minerals’ in the country’s multiple cycles of violent conflict. Minerals, it is said, are key to financing belligerents. While this is beyond doubt, it would be mistaken to take them for a root cause, such as a purely ‘war economy’ or ‘resource curse’ approach would imply. Rather than being ends, minerals serve as a means. All that notwithstanding, an unprecedented wave of transnational initiatives to ‘clean up’ the Congolese artisanal mining (ASM) sector is underway. Emphasizing its regulation, their success, however, remains limited in terms of draining conflict. Nonetheless, their impact in altering the configuration of access, power, and authority across ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ actors (on those in between) in mining areas is considerable – for better or worse – as they encroach upon overlapping legal arrangements, the socio-spatial dynamics of commodity networks, patterns of violence, and the hybrid nature of individual and collective actors engaged across ASM supply chains. This thesis critically researches the impact of transnational mineral governance on eastern Congo’s tantalum, tin, and tungsten (3T) markets, and analyses how patterns of access, authority, and power are influenced by different regulations. A key question in this context is how such reform processes impinge on (in-)formal mineral markets in conflict areas as well as the everyday negotiation of political, social, and economic relations between the stakeholders. Across key mining sites in the provinces of South and North Kivu, it assesses emerging transnational 3T governance schemes, with a focus on the ITRI Tin Supply Chain initiative (iTSCi).