Microsoft Corp. and international development organization Pact have announced an expanded partnership to address child labor mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Microsoft has made a new three-year financial commitment to support Pact’s work to address child labor in mining and will build on the successful Watoto Inje ya Mungoti (Children Out of Mining) project. The move comes on the heels of a number of recent initiatives to eradicate forced and unethical labor practices from global supply chains.
An estimated 10 million people across the DRC rely on income from artisanal and small-scale mining, working in materials including tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and cobalt. While children under 18 cannot legally work in the mines, the law is not widely observed for several economic and societal reasons. As a result, many children start working in mines at a very young age.
Since 2015, Pact and Microsoft have been working together to address the issue through the Children Out of Mining pilot project in Katanga. The project uses interventions that are deeply embedded in communities and local institutions to address the economic and social root causes that lead to child labor in mining. In mines where the project has been active, Pact has found a reduction in child labor of between 77 to 97 percent, with variation influenced by seasonal factors and the influx of new conflict-displaced families, among others.
“Microsoft was one of the first partners on this important issue. Its seed funding helped us achieve groundbreaking progress in the first two years of work,” said Yves Bawa, Country Director for DRC, Rwanda and Burundi at Pact.
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As part of the expanded partnership, Pact and Microsoft will provide more direct support to children and adolescents and the local organizations that assist them. Activities will include developing an apprenticeship program for older adolescents, improving the capacity of local orphanages, assessing state child protection and welfare services and supporting home-based daycare for younger children of miners. This builds on the existing program, which has created protective environments for children in areas associated with artisanal mining.
“There is no place for child labor in the mining supply chain,” said Joan Krajewski, General Manager of Safety, Compliance and Sustainability at Microsoft. “By expanding and deepening Microsoft’s partnership with Pact, we can make meaningful progress toward addressing the worst forms of child labor. Already, we’ve seen the difference these programs can make and hope that our investment will encourage others to join in these scalable, replicable efforts.”
The latest commitment builds on both organizations’ history of promoting responsible sourcing of materials. Microsoft has been working directly with suppliers and through NGOs such as Pact with the goal of eradicating child labor in the mining supply chain, with a particular focus on tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and cobalt. Pact has been working for more than 10 years in Congo’s mining communities to address systemic changes needed to improve the lives of artisanal miners and their families on a range of issues, including child labor.
Pact’s Mines to Markets program currently works in 10 countries assisting resource-dependent communities to gain lasting benefits from the more sustainable use of their natural resources. Utilizing a unique integrated approach, Pact’s work links mining to livelihoods, governance, health, the environment and strengthening of local, regional and national institutions.