Last year, at approximately 7.22 billion, the number of mobile phones overtook the number of people in the world (approx 7.2 billion). Now that might not seem so bad, until you realise that half of the worlds population do not own a phone. Not to mention that more people own cell phones in the world than have toilets. So why is this an issue? Because the majority of this technology use conflict minerals in their products, in turn fuelling one of the worlds deadliest civil wars.
Conflict Minerals refer to raw materials that come from a particular part of the world where conflict is occurring and affects the mining and trading of those materials. Conflict minerals usually fuel this conflict and in The Republic of Congo’s case, it is fuelling a civil war that has taken the lives of over 5 million people.
The three T’s as well as gold are highly prestigious minerals that are abundant in the soils of Congo. These substances are the rebel group’s main source of income and are used in nearly all of our technological goods such as phones, laptops and televisions. Chances are they were used to make whatever you are using to read this blog. Since the late 90’s over 5 million people have died in the Republic of Congo’s civil war, where this despair and oppression is fuelled from the profits of the minerals. A large portion of these deaths were due to malnutrition, as the majority of the profits (approx 75%) go to the rebels whilst their workers (usually children) struggle to survive. This makes it impossible and unethical to just stop trading with the rebels, as we would also be taking away what small livelihood most of the population have. In 2010 the USA created the Dodd Frank Act, which forced companies to disclose conflict minerals in their products, reducing the militia’s revenue by 65% of product sourced from Congo. This had dire consequences as it reduced the already minuscule amount that their civilians were living off.
Not-so-fun fact: Fewer than 2% of the people in Congo have access to the internet.
Even worse not-so-fun-fact: Congo is the worse place in the world to be a woman. Approximately 48 women are raped per hour.
A simple and sarcastic summary of the situation:
Speaking for myself, I had absolutely no clue about these disgusting practices that most common technology corporations have been undertaking. One of the most criticised brands is Macintosh, due to their immense hypocrisy of “empowering people” and promoting social consciousness whilst sourcing their materials from inhumane child mines. When it comes to finding a solution to such a dire issue, the lines are blurred. Who’s responsibility is it? The governments? The corporations? The consumers? Not only this, but we also must take into account who is in a position of power to make a change. No, cutting off the militia’s income is not a sole solution. Nor is abruptly marching in to the Republic of Congo and overthrowing the militia, killing even more innocents in the process. It is an extremely delicate and urgent situation that needs addressing through all levels of power and in my opinion, the first step is through media. This issue is so well hidden from both the public and organisations but by empowering the public with knowledge, we are uniting for a cause and creating options for solutions. Both corporations and governments would be much more inclined to act on an issue of social conscious if we pushed for it. So research a little more, see how you can help, and maybe tell a friend. Because after all, we can’t change something we don’t even know about in the first place.