Editor’s Note: This blog post was written by Enough Project Intern Amanda Schmitt.
On November 6, 2015, a cohort of Conflict-Free Campus Initiative leaders met with U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Tom Perriello, to present a letter of support for his appointment signed by over 500 students around the country and to discuss their shared goal of supporting peace in the region. The students were representatives of the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, a nationwide, student-led program created by the Enough Project and STAND to combat the violent conflict minerals trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo). Students work to redirect school electronics purchasing practices toward companies that partake in conflict-free sourcing from Congo. As a result of efforts by students from over 175 schools across the US, Canada, and the UK, 19 universities, colleges, and high schools have passed resolutions supporting such practices since the program began in 2010.
Student leaders began the meeting by highlighting their personal passion for peacebuilding and furthering conflict-free sourcing initiatives in Congo. Wider student energy around responsible sourcing from Congo was manifest through the letter of support, in which students additionally highlighted their requests for Special Envoy Perriello’s areas of focus regarding conflict in Congo:
- Tackle key challenges on conflict minerals, in particular conflict gold and miners’ livelihoods.
- Ensure the United States takes real steps to hold accountable the leaders and businesses most responsible for mass corruption and violence in Congo.
- Make sure women’s and other civil society voices are heard in high-level peace efforts and hold accountable leaders who block democracy.
Special Envoy Perriello was appreciative of the support and receptive to the students’ points of advocacy. He lauded the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative students' perseverance, as the stakes continue to be extremely high in Congo. He pledged to work on economic issues, and he expressed hope for the 2016 Congo elections, though citing that it will be a difficult road ahead. Special Envoy Perriello asserted his support for the student leaders’ goals and additionally encouraged the students to reach out to their Representatives to express their policy priorities for peacebuilding in Congo and responsible minerals sourcing initiatives.