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Amend the UNC-system electronics procurement policy, declaring intent to privilege electronics companies who have made the greatest progress towards conflict-free sourcing.

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Summary: This petition reflects a collaboration between Yole!Africa U.S., the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, and faculty supporters. As a coalition of diverse advocates, seeking to unite Congolese activism with like-minded supporters in the United States and the broader world, we hope to educate the UNC community concerning ongoing human rights abuses in the Congo, in manner that highlights global partnership and mutual agency. We seek to inform our campus of the impact that international consumer choices may have on a complex and ongoing conflict and to advocate for University purchasing policies that take these considerations into account.  The following report attempts to provide background on the conflict as well as the role that the consumer electronics industry may play in its perpetuation.

 

The Current Conflict:With over 5 million killed and 2 million displaced in nearly 2 decades, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the deadliest conflict since WWII. Despite the severity of the current crisis, the a substantial majority of international observers remain ignorant of the realities in Congo. The conflict is concentrated in the nation’s mineral-rich eastern region, notably in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale.This volatile region is home to over 30 armed rebel groups.Armed groups and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) continue to engage in human rights abuses including the recruitment of child soldiers and the commitment of acts of sexual and gender-based violence.[4] According to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Empowerment Fund (UNICEF) in August 2013, 2,000 children are actively serving as soldiers in the current conflict.Though the March 23 (M-23) rebel group, which began renewed assault on FARDC and civilians near Goma in Spring 2012, is notorious for child recruitment, both rebel militias and the Congolese army engage in the forced recruitment of child soldiers.On issues of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), a July 2013 press release by the United Nations affirms that the DRC’s North Kivu province (the region of concentrated conflict between the M-23 and FARDC) has seen a rise in cases of SGBV in recent months, to include over 600 cases of rape since January 2013.

 

Conflict Minerals: The exploitation of Congo’s vast mineral resources, particularly in its eastern provinces, remains both a symptom and a peripheral cause of fighting between government forces and armed militia groups. While neither the sole nor the primary cause of conflict, the illicit mineral trade perpetuates atrocity by providing incentives for rebel groups to continue fighting. Both FARDC and rebel movements such as the M-23 use revenue from illegally smuggled minerals to finance the purchase of weapons and support conflict operations. Civilians living in provinces in the eastern portion of DRC are directly affected by this illicit trade, whether through forced labor in the mines, illegal imposition of taxes on production and resource transit by militia groups, or the displacement of mining communities due to militia takeover of areas surrounding the mines. As many of the minerals extracted from the Congo’s eastern regions find their way onto the international market (namely in the electronics, automobile, and jewelry industries), international efforts to stem illicit mining and its associated human rights abuses pose potential for significant regional impact. In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires electronics corporations who source minerals from Eastern Congo and other countries in the region to execute “due diligence” on their supply chains (in other words, tracing to the mine of origin to ensure the absence of illicit or conflict-related practices). Building upon this momentum, the Congolese government passed similar legislation in February 2012 requiring multinational corporations (MNCs) who operate in Congo to complete due diligence. Evidence suggests that such initiatives may have an impact: according to a company rankings report released in 2012 by the Enough! Project, armed groups in the region are only able to generate 35% of the revenue they earned from the trade in 2010.


Comprehensive Peace: The Conflict Free Campus Initiative seeks to stress three caveats regarding the role of consumerism and conflict minerals in contributing to comprehensive peace in the DRC. First, we posit that the abolition of trade in conflict minerals is one component of a broader peace process that aims to create lasting, durable solutions for the Congolese nation and its citizens. We seek to utilize consumer leverage to reduce incentives for illicit mineral smuggling, reducing revenues that currently line the pockets of rebel militias. Concerted national, regional, and international efforts are required to acquire lasting peace in Congo.Secondly, we stress that divestment is not the answer to resolving conflict in the Congo. While abstention from militia-controlled mines is important in reducing incentives for conflict, we do not advocate a wholesale exodus of MNCs from the region- this would only serve as a de-facto sanction upon civilian artisanal miners who depend on the industry for their livelihoods. Finally, we stress the importance of advocacy as motivated by global citizenship, and in so doing see to humanize the crisis in Congo by devoting attention to the culture and accomplishments of Congolese citizens rather than merely on atrocity.



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