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The Informal Economy and Resource Exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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The role of mineral exploitation in fueling the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo ( drc ) has led to international efforts to combat the “illicit” trade in minerals, including the passing of legislation such as Section 1502 of the United States' Dodd-Frank Act. Yet the assumption that control over resources is a root cause of conflict, and a primary motivation of armed groups, is problematic. Since Dodd-Frank was passed, a debate over whether it has done more harm than good has emerged. A meta-debate that is being skirted around in the Dodd-Frank discussion, however, is the question of what are the boundaries of the “illicit” and “informal” economies. The article begins with a brief theoretical framework, followed by contextual background which will demonstrate that social, political, and military struggles in the drc have evolved over time and have shaped the shifting boundaries of the informal economy, which are dynamic rather than static. It will then explain that to understand illicit mineral exploitation in the drc a model is required that recognizes that the official and informal sectors intersect with each other rather than existing in isolation; and that the relationship between the informal economy and the state in the drc has changed over time, influenced by changing social and political struggles and defined by changing legal frameworks.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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