The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Conflict-Free Cheer: Remember Congo this Holiday Season

By Comms Blogger Roberta Barnett

          With the exception of the STAND National Conference, there are few times a year I enjoy more than the holiday season.  Sometimes, it’s easy to get preoccupied with finals, gift exchanges, and parties—forgetting genocide entirely.  After all, global genocide may not be the most festive of subjects to discuss over eggnog.  But there is at least one way to keep up the dialogue on conflict-prevention: via electronics!

          It’s been a growing trend in the past few years to give and receive electronics during the holiday season.  Unfortunately, much of the money we spend on electronics goes to fuel the deadliest conflict since World War II in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  If you haven’t heard of the term “conflict minerals,” referring to tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, they are metals in most modern electronics mined in the DRC that have been used directly by armed groups to finance violence on local populations (this issue is certainly more nuanced than I just explained, and I encourage you to log on to STAND, United to End Genocide, or the Enough Project Web pages on the topic if you are unfamiliar with this issue).
          The accounts of gender-based violence in eastern Congo alone are enough to make me want to toss all of my gadgets and live a monastic existence until companies progress to being entirely conflict free.  Unfortunately, not only would that be a rather poor strategy in terms of communication, but throwing away electronics simply because they may contain minerals from the DRC will not help anyone.  Instead, we can use our electronics to raise awareness with consumers and companies, urging them to make going conflict-free a priority.  It’s very easy to visit a company’s Web Site or Facebook page and let them know how you feel about its commitment to producing conflict-free products (you can even contact companies through the Enough Project’s Web Site!).

          This weekend, I had to get a new cell phone but was unsure of which device to choose.  I turned to the Enough Project’s site ranking the 21 largest electronics companies based on efforts toward conflict-free supply chains.  I am glad to say that I found a phone with a “green” rating, and will be writing an E-mail message to the company to thank it for the commitment towards creating conflict-free products.
          This December, as a responsible consumer and upSTANDer, conscientious purchasing, conflict education, and effective communication with electronics companies have the potential to make seasons to come a whole lot brighter.  If enough consumers are able to create a demand for conflict free products, electronics companies will eventually make a greater commitment to producing them.  In the frenzy of holiday shopping, parties, and cheer, don’t forget to keep in mind a gift we can’t wrap in paper: a conflict-free tomorrow.

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