How many electronics are on your Black Friday shopping list? How about your Christmas list? There’s a very good chance that some of the items on your list are funding the conflict in the Congo – the deadliest armed conflict since WWII. Armed groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars a year trading four main minerals: gold, tantalum, tungsten, and tin. They use this money to buy weapons which allow them to continue their violence against civilians, mainly women and children. The majority of these minerals eventually end up in cell phones, computers, mp3 players, and video game systems. Because of the lack of a transparent supply chain, American consumers have no way to ensure that their purchases are not financing armed groups that regularly commit mass atrocities.
John Predergast, founder of Enough, has a very enlightening video about conflict minerals and how they get from forced labor mines, where young children are sometimes forced to work with guns to their backs, to the cell phone in your back pocket.
The cause does not have to be a lost one. In response to consumer demand for conflict-free diamonds, the Kimberely Process was developed. Its purpose was to “certify the origin of rough diamonds from sources which are free of conflict funded by diamond production”. Now consumers can be certain that the diamonds they’re buying are conflict-free. With enough support, a similar process could be developed for the four main minerals that fuel the conflict in eastern Congo.
Raise Hope for the Congo (raisehopeforthecongo.org) offers a ranking system of the 21 top electronics manufacturers and their progress toward making a conflict-free supply chain: Conflict-Mineral Company Rankings. Please try and support the companies making the best efforts toward offering conflict-free electronics.
Raise Hope for the Congo also offers very easy ways to spread the word about conflict-minerals to all your friends and family by offering this email form: spread the word! Through another form on the site, you can commit to buying conflict-free products and let manufacturers know that you’ll buy from them when they make their products conflict free.
Since universities are such huge consumers of electronics, students can also have an enormous impact. Raise Hope has a toolkit available for download (here) to help students urge their schools to publicly support conflict-free electronics. They also have an advocacy guide and a list of schools that are already conflict free.
Because of consumer outrage, it is now possible to be assured of the origin of diamonds. Should consumers not be just as out outraged that the innocent electronics that populate our homes fund a conflict that has already claimed over 5 million lives? This Christmas season, be sure that the gifts you buy are not helping finance this deadly conflict – commit to buying conflict-free electronics.