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BridgeBuilder Challenge winner: gold production as a pathway to peace in DR Congo


Peace Direct is delighted to be one of the five winning submissions in the BridgeBuilder Challenge 2017, a global competition that recognises innovative and impactful initiatives tackling some of the world’s most urgent problems. Our project is supporting ex-combatants affected by war in DR Congo to produce ethical and environmentally friendly gold through local cooperatives.

  • Published

    31 July 2017
  • Written by

    Oscar Lester

How can we address urgent global challenges at the intersections of peace, prosperity and planet in radical new ways?

This is a question that generated much debate, learning, mud, and inspiration as Peace Direct took part in the BridgeBuilder Challenge run by OpenIDEO in collaboration with GHR Foundation which supports organisations working to address urgent global challenges in innovative new ways.

From 660 applications received globally, we are delighted that our proposal was one of the five winning applications. With the grant, we will be implementing an ambitious three-year project. This project, the first known project of its kind, aims to support ex-combatants affected by war in DR Congo to produce ethical and environmentally friendly gold through local cooperatives, helping to strengthen local efforts to build peace, protect the environment and generate sustainable income for the cooperative members.

Working with the foremost world expert in ethical gold production and one of Eastern DR Congo’s most experienced local peacebuilding organisations, the project aims to address three key drivers of insecurity and destruction in what is one of Africa’s most deadly conflicts.


Project planning

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s poorest countries, plagued by decades of war and underdevelopment. The troubled east of the country is home to the majority of the gold production, which is mined in small scale and artisanal mines.

For most, this is subsistence mining, providing little more than the means to exist at or below the poverty line. The work is not only dangerous; it is also environmentally damaging, as it uses mercury and other toxic chemicals. The health of thousands of people suffers, the environment is degraded and people remain desperately poor – all mining one of the world’s most valuable and sought after precious metals.

Our winning project will establish and support cooperatives of small scale miners (made up of ex-combatants and other people affected by war) in Eastern DR Congo to produce more ethical and environmentally friendly gold, while strengthening prospects for peace.

The planned production method will increase the gold output, improving incomes for local people, the majority of whom live in extreme poverty. This will be achieved not only through training and investments in improved machinery but also by ensuring that the different stakeholder groups (community members, environmentalists, business, government) are able to work together.

Partnerships on the ground

We have been supporting locally led efforts to stop violence and build peace in DR Congo for almost ten years and our local partners are highly trusted and well known in the communities that they serve in the troubled eastern region.

Our local partner, Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC), is a widely respected peacebuilding organisation which has successfully reintegrated almost 6,000 ex-combatants back into their community over the past ten years.

They are experts in how to work with war-affected communities and have trained psychosocial counsellors who provide the necessary support to ensure that ex-combatants and the community are able to heal after the ravages of war. Many of the staff at CRC are ex-combatants themselves, so have personal experiences of the issues faced by local communities.

We are also working with one of the world’s foremost experts in environmentally sustainable and Fairtrade gold production, Greg Valerio, who produced the world’s first Fairtrade certified gold.

With his help, a gold mining co-operative made up of ex-combatants was established a number of years ago, so proof that ex-combatants can work together exists. We now want to take this to the next stage, and show the world that gold production can be a pathway to peace, prosperity. Greg will act as a technical consultant and project advisor throughout the three-year project.


The first of its kind

At Peace Direct, we pride ourselves on being entrepreneurial, nimble and willing to take risks for peace. We have won a number of awards, including best new UK charity, and have twice come top of an international survey of INGOs, as assessed by the local organisations worked with in developing countries.

Claire May, Head of Programme Development at Peace Direct, said: “BridgeBuilder has been an exciting experience for Peace Direct. It was great opportunity to be involved in such an innovative and participatory process of grant making.”

Dylan Mathews, Chief Executive of Peace Direct, said: “This ‘infrastructure for peace, planet and prosperity’ is missing in DR Congo. We hope that over time this environmental and ethical gold production can be developed further into the first Fairtrade gold to be produced in DR Congo. If we are successful, the model could be replicated to other parts of the country where artisanal gold mining already represents the biggest single source of income and the best hope for economic growth, development and, eventually, peace. If we can achieve this, it will be the first project of its kind in the DR Congo.”


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