"CONFLICT MINERALS" IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Members of the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition (STAND) and Faculty Commentators
Friday January 22, 2009
Crawford Hall - Room 9
Case Western Reserve University
You probably don't think of rape and murder when you look at a cell phone. Yet members of advocacy groups who seek to end the seemingly endless and exceedingly bloody conflict in the eastern Congo do.
What some call the "world's deadliest ongoing conflict" is said to have killed over five million people. Rape is the tactic of choice to intimidate and punish uncooperative populations. According to reports from sources such as the U.N. Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the warring militias or gangs support themselves in large part by selling gold, tantalulm, tin and tungsten, usually smuggled through Rwanda or Uganda and shipped to smelters in the Far East. Eventually much of these resources end up in electronic equipment, especially cell phones, where tantalum is used in storing electricity.
Could the plug be pulled on the violence by cutting off the economic support for the warring groups? A wide range of international advocacy organizations think so, and they have announced support for legislation that would seek to "shine a light" on the trade in "conflict minerals." Human Rights Watch, Oxfam America, World Vision and Global Witness are among the groups that support the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in November by Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA). The Congo Conflict Minerals Act, introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KA) and cosponsored by 13 Senate Democrats and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) expresses similar goals. The idea of each bill is that, if it can be shown that certain final products are built with minerals derived from the trade in the Congo, their makers will not be able to sell the products. Companies such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard have endorsed the bills, saying that they would much prefer not to sell products made with conflict minerals, but need help creating the information that would enable them (and the smelters) to buy responsibly.
For our Public Affairs Discussion on January 22, representatives from the Case Western Reserve University Student Anti-Genocide Coalition (STAND) will describe the problem and the proposals. Then they, faculty from the political science department, and the rest of the group will discuss the questions that follow. I can think of a few -- such as whether cutting off the trade in minerals would significantly reduce the conflict, whether the incentives to cheat will overwhelm any monitoring process, and how the implicit boycott being sought would work in practice. But I'm sure lots of people can think of others. There is much to discuss, and to learn.
If you are interested, here are a couple of sources on the actual bills: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-4128 http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-891&tab=summary
As usual, we will gather in Room 9 of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, on the lower level of Crawford Hall, for free cookies, beverages, and brown bag lunch.
About Our Guest
STAND (Student Anti-Genocide Coalition) is a recognized student group on campus. It both advocates against genocide and trains students in advocacy against genocide. STAND has focused especially on the situations in Sudan, Burma, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2007, as reported in The Observer (Oct 12), STAND "spearheaded an effort that led the board of trustees to agree to divest its direct holdings from and avoid future investments in companies that are not active in humanitarian efforts in areas where genocide has occurred."
Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:
January 29: Chimeras, Cyborgs, and the Moral Limits of Science. With Jason Scott Robert, Franca Oreficce Dean’s Distinguished Professor in the Life Sciences, Arizona State University
February 5: The Challenges of Increasing Faculty Diversity. With Marilyn Sanders Mobley, Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and Professor of English, CWRU.
February 12: Long-Term Care in the United States and the Netherlands. With M. C. Terry Hokenstad, Ralph S. and Dorothy P. Schmitt Professor, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
February 19: An Actuary’s View of Health Care Reform Estimates. With John Bertko, former Vice President and Chief Actuary, Humana Inc.
February 26: Is Deindustrialization Bad for America? With Susan Helper, AT&T Professor and Chair, Department of Economics; David Clingingsmith, Assistant Professor of Economics; and Joe White.
March 5: Ohio’s State Budget: Now What? With Zach Schiller, Research Director, Policy Matters Ohio.
March 12: Spring Break, No Discussion
March 19: Science in the Courts. With Wendy Wagner, Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor, University of Texas School of Law.
March 26: Observations in Beirut. With Bill Marling, Professor of English.
April 2: Abortion, Health Care Reform, and the Moral Dimensions of Political Compromise. With Susan Dwyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland.
April 9: Business and Sustainability. With Roger Saillant, Ph.D. Executive Director, Fowler Center for Sustainable Values, Weatherhead School of Business.
April 16: : Does Environmental Responsibility Mean the Elderly Should Accept “Natural” Deaths? With Felicia Nimue Ackerman, Professor of Philosophy, Brown University.
April 23: What the Health Care Reform Law Will Do; or, Why Health Care Reform Failed; or, Health Care Reform: What Next? or, All of the Above. With Joe White, Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy
The Friday Lunch discussions are held on the lower (ground) level of Crawford Hall. Visitors with mobility issues may find it easiest to take advantage of special arrangements we have made. On most Fridays, a few parking spaces in the V.I.P. lot in between Crawford Hall and Amasa Stone Chapel are held for participants in the lunch discussion.
Visitors then can avoid walking up the hill to the first floor of Crawford by entering the building on the ground level, through the garage area under the building. The further door on the left in that garage will be left unlocked during the period before the Friday lunch. On occasion, parking will be unavailable because of other university events.
For more information about these and other Center for Policy Studies programs, please see http://policy.case.edu.