Source: VOA News

Chaos in The Congo: Universities Campaign for ‘Conflict-Free’

Our world is consumed by technology. Last week, our internet servers went down for coursework submission and the whole university went mad – such is our dependence on it.

This weekend celebrated International Women’s Day. It brought into legislation important laws, such as Clare’s Law, which allows women to have access to their partner’s domestic abuse record.

Pankhurst
Source: Standard

With such an international presence of feminism, it is quite scary how so many do not know the whereabouts of the most dangerous country in the world for women.

I’d like to divert you to somewhere further afield. The country in the middle of Africa with the long name that people often overlook or forget about. The Democratic Republic of Congo has housed the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two, with 6 million dead, 2 million displaced, and 400,000 women and children raped every year.

Congo-rape-victim-shields-007
Source: The Guardian

The video below gives some important background information to the issue:

If that’s not terrifying enough for you, the conflict in question circles around the mining of Congo’s exuberant minerals. Hidden amongst its vast landscape are precious minerals such as Gold, Tin, Tantalum and Tungsten.

I’m sure that most of you may not have heard of the latter two; I certainly did not until researching this article. Ironically, these materials are used to make the technology we prize and obsessively rely on.

Congo Conflict Graph
Source: TechRepublic

Popular companies, in particular Nintendo, make their products with 100% conflict materials.

With the state of technology as it is, most of us have a phone or laptop made by made by Apple, Samsung, HTC, HP, Sony or Panasonic. Its hardware is monitored by Intel, and its software governed by Microsoft.

microsoft-surface-windows-rt
Source: Tech Radar

Unfortunately, when we browse through Instagram or fail (yet again) on Flappy Bird, we don’t quite realise how our use; and often abuse; of technology is affecting others overseas.

To make an iPhone, these materials are engineered together, alongside others, to create the pristine back-light and sleek handset. However, little did we know, all of these minerals play a functional role in fueling the devastating war in the Congo.

Congo Fighting
Source: Huffington Post

Research has confirmed reports of armed groups using rape as a weapon of war.

With the subject of Chinese Female Genital Mutilation rife in the news today, it is bizarre that the Congo’s widespread use of rape as armament is given minimal press attention.

Trafficking-e1354504232743
Source: Community Foundation of Collier County

Murder and child trafficking have also been confirmed as instrumental catalysts in the quest for more minerals.

The power of consumerism has never been more important. We, in our technology-addicted culture, can play our part in ending this conflict.

On the 3rd March, MSF, or ‘Doctors Without Borders’ released a special report spotlighting the shocking humanitarian situation that the Democratic Republic of Congo has been experiencing over the last twenty years. MSF calls for immediate action to end to the persistent suffering.

MSB3437
Source: Medicins Sans Frontieres

At the University of Essex, Amnesty International Society students have grouped together to form an organisation to fight this conflict: Conflict Free Essex.

isk
Source: University of Essex

The persuasive power of universities is often underestimated.

An organisation that equips its students with technology, spending millions of pounds  every year on computers, phones, gaming centres and television screens.

Business conference
Source: Women’s Rights

Conflict Free Essex seek to pressure technology companies into tracking their supply chains and create ‘conflict free’ electronics.

The campaigners state their intention clearly:

“We want the University of Essex to sign into their procurement legislation a pledge, that they acknowledge this conflict in the Congo, and our role in it, and their responsibility to conflict free electronics”.

1780919_1463651277182253_895539310_n
Source: University of Essex

The organisation is intent on raising awareness of the conflict, and have hence organised ‘Congo Week’ at the university, set to occur after the Easter break.

564684_1464754453738602_1743555386_n
Source: University of Essex

The week, its dates to be confirmed, will feature guest panels and campaigns across the university. The executive members of the organisation have confirmed the possibility of an SU referendum on the issue.

Conflict Free Essex has released a series of slogans, the most important of which celebrates the idea that Essex could achieve a university with “No Blood in its technology”. Using the hashtag #nobloodinourtech, the campaign has already recruited over 250 people’s interest in raising awareness for the issue.

ios7-apps-feature
Source: Guardian

Having collected over 300 signatures, the organisation is gathering all-important force to stop the conflict.

If you are a University of Essex student, play your part in ending the humanitarian conflict by liking Conflict Free Essex on Facebook, Twitter and heading down to the squares during One World Week, or going along to the Amnesty International Society meetings. All details will be available via this link.

If you aren’t a university of Essex student, get involved in Take Action’s Conflict Free Congo social media petition and see how you can make a difference.

Make sure you follow @CFCEssex on Twitter, like Conflict Free Essex on Facebook, and email conflictfreeessex@gmail.com for more details.

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