“The key to all social movements is [having] allies.” This observation, made by student activist and Conflict-Free Campus Initiative leader Roxanne Rahnama, encapsulates the theme of a series of recent events and developments in the conflict-free movement.
On September 21, Roxanne joined Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on a panel at the 2014 Mashable Social Good Summit in New York City. Many in the 800-person audience were surprised and fascinated to see a college senior on stage with the head of a major Fortune 500 company, but the conversation revealed that these two actually have quite a lot in common: both are at the forefront of the fight to establish a conflict-free, responsible minerals trade in Congo. Without students like Roxanne who have been working for years to encourage companies to clean up their supply chains and source clean minerals from Congo, companies like Intel would never have been made aware of the issue or felt compelled to take action. And without companies like Intel which have taken up the challenge to create fully conflict-free products and supply chains, consumers wouldn’t have the opportunity to make the choice of a conflict-free purchase.
Speaking at a separate event at the New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business on September 19, Mr. Krzanich reiterated the importance of collaboration when working to address such a complex issue, noting that “the only way these problems are going to get solved is if we work together.” While in New York, Mr. Krzanich also met with student representatives of the NYU Conflict-Free Campus Initiative chapter, to learn about their plans for the year and discuss opportunities for collaborative action.
In recent years, much progress has been made towards eliminating conflict minerals from the global supply chain. Efforts by activists like Roxanne and companies like Intel combined with legal regulations and in-region initiatives have laid the groundwork for significant forward momentum, but much work still remains. Conflict gold in particular remains an issue to be tackled, which will require broader engagement from industries like jewelry.
The conflict-free movement as a whole must call for greater reform, including more robust implementation of minerals certification, regularized mine inspections and lowered red tape that would allow Congolese miners to receive better prices for their minerals, and livelihood projects for mining communities such as microfinance, agriculture, and conflict-free mining. Without these reforms and investments, the conflict-free mineral trade in Congo will be incomplete and unsustainable.
The Mashable Social Good Summit and the event at NYU this month indicate a sustained and growing interest in the conflict-free movement and exemplify its cross-cutting nature. Finding and forging allies has been an integral part in the success so far, and will be key to continued progress.
Photo: Brian Krzanich and Roxanne Rahnama at Mashable Social Good Summit