Sœur Nathalie Kangaji
Sœurs de Notre Dame Chanoinesses de Saint Augustin – Democratic Republic of the Congo
In 2008, I initiated the foundation of a legal and judicial aid centre in Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is a local organisation working for the promotion and protection of human rights, whose mission is to provide assistance to the poor and to victims of violence or abuse. Since 2013, we have been working in the natural resources sector, and particularly on mining issues: core activities include environmental protection, climate change mitigation, defending the rights of local communities, and promoting good governance in the mining industry.
Kolwezi is a mining town with a 60% reserve of cobalt, which is one of the strategic materials for tomorrow’s sustainable energy production. In addition, the Congo is rich in a variety of other minerals, which are exploited for the benefit of industrialised countries through large firms, often in a context of non-compliance, corruption, or a similar lack of standards.
We are witnessing systematic plundering and uncontrolled exploitation, with no visible development benefits. Many local communities are victims of forced relocation – often illegal – and pay a heavy price for the growth of extractive projects in the region. Water, air and soil pollution accompany extractive activities: these impacts are dynamic over time, often latent or invisible, and can compromise the lives of future generations.
We help local communities to set up and consolidate participatory governance committees, so they can form pressure groups for environmental protection and good governance. We train them to use all legal mechanisms available to apply pressure on issues related to the misuse of natural resources and the breach of their human rights.
Advocacy – the process of influencing decision-makers at local, national and international levels with the aim of changing policies – is an important mechanism of our engagement. Working in synergy with others is an opportunity for us to make our voices heard at the highest level: for example, we work with local organisations in the same sector, but also with international organisations in Europe and elsewhere.
We are committed to taking action to promote the transparent and responsible management of mining resources. We advocate for an economy that is pro-human, pro-dignity, pro-poor, and environmentally sound. Courageous commitments are needed, because environmental protection is an essential condition of sustainable development and a better life for all people.