Past Projects in the Extractive Industries
Over the past decade HRI has developed a significant niche in research and advocacy aimed at ending the so-called “resource curse.” Some of the work focused on the direct human rights impacts of mining and land-based petroleum development. But most focused on the billions of dollars invested and generated by the sector in the developing world, with a view toward bolstering democratic engagement and ensuring the accountability of governments and investors. There were two main avenues for this work: one thematic and one focused on a single country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Through the Human Rights Clinic and in collaboration with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, the Institute provided research and technical support throughout the 2013-2014 academic year to civil society and community members in the DRC conducting human rights impact assessments of mining and infrastructure projects in the DRC. This support included a trip to the region by Kaitlin Cordes ’08, who supervised a team of Human Rights Clinic students working on the project, and clinic student Doug Cantwell ’15. While there, Cordes and Cantwell conducted an intensive three-day workshop with local partners. The trip also allowed the Columbia team to coordinate more closely with their Carter Center counterparts, including Elisabeth (Lies) Caesens ‘09 LL.M., who leads The Carter Center’s mining governance work from the mining capital in Lubumbashi.
This project built upon years of collaboration with the Carter Center on a long-term study of industrial mining in the DRC. Six generations of clinic students have traveled to the region to support this work, including Caesens as a clinic student. In 2012, with the support of clinic students, Caesens completed the first comprehensive analysis of the extraordinary ups and downs in the sector since the DRC’s democratic elections in 2006.
With support from the Natural Resource Governance Institute (formerly Revenue Watch Institute), HRI engaged in multi-country studies of mining deals and their enforcement around the world. In 2011, Revenue Watch published Enforcing the Rules: Government and Citizen Oversight of Mining, the result of a year-long project directed by Erin Foley Smith, ’10, that involved field research with former Institute co-director Peter Rosenblum and students of the Human Rights Clinic in Peru, South Africa and Zambia. The report focuses on the millions of dollars lost to development, the damage to the environment and the harm to workers that result from systematic failure to enforce a range of human rights and other obligations.