“From Mines to Mobiles: A Campaign for Ethical, Conflict-free Technology”, Kingston University Human Rights Festival in coalition with Congo Calling, 17-18 April 2013
by Nancy Smith
United Nations Association at Kingston University
BA (Hons) Human Rights and Journalism
This year’s Human Rights Festival at Kingston University was run in coalition with Congo Calling and focused on conflict minerals. Students learnt that many of their technological devices contain minerals mined in the DRC. They also found out more about the role of Congo’s mineral trade in fuelling the civil war there.
The event was run by enthusiastic, passionate students studying in the field of human rights, some with family ties to the DRC. Global Witness, Raise Hope for Congo and FairPhone’s work was highlighted. Bandi Mbubi, of Congo Calling, gave an in-depth talk to a captivated audience describing the atrocities taking place in his home country. The message was of the urgent need for change. Ravished by the brutal control of armed groups fighting to control access to the profits reaped from precious, naturally occurring minerals, Congo desperately needs reforms to its mineral trade.
A conflict-free movement at Kingston University is in its infancy. The conflict-free concept is new to most students, and many of those we spoke to over the two days were naive, disbelieving and at times claimed: “it’s not my problem”. Without a substantial proportion of the student body being behind the initiative the Vice Chancellor can abstain from action by claiming there is simply no overwhelming voice for such a change. We need to continue with on-campus campaigning on a regular basis and start a petition to the VC for students to sign and show their support for a conflict-free clause being implemented.
My vision for this movement is for Kingston University to join St. Andrews and Exeter Universities to achieve a conflict-free agreement with the Board of Trustees and the Vice Chancellor. Most importantly, if achieved, Kingston would be the first London based university to take such action, calling on others such as LSE, UCL and Kings College to follow suit.
Our aim is for Kingston University to amend the tendering process for contracting technology companies by asking them to give information regarding the source of the minerals they use. Ideally we would like them give assurances that the minerals they use are conflict-free. The answers given should influence the decision of Kingston University as to which company to go with. I want this to be achieved by summer 2015.
As I and the majority of other students involved with this campaign are either not in the country over the next year or are now finishing our studies there is no one at present to take on the campaign in the year ahead. We very much hope that students arriving for the new academic year might take this forward.
For now we will lobby the Vice Chancellor, the University’s Board of Trustees, local MPs, Kingston lecturers and most importantly the students. We will use a variety of methods and ideally a coalition of societies will be created.
Awareness is the first step and implementation is the last. We have started here, and we will finish with determination.