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Cornell University Examines Congo Minerals Trade

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Cornell University Examines Congo Minerals Trade

Posted by Aaron Hall on February 22, 2011

Cornell University Examines Congo Minerals Trade

On Tuesday, February 15 Cornell University hosted an event on conflict minerals in Congo and invited me to speak about our connection to the issues and the role that a consumer campaign can play in reducing mass atrocities in the country and the region. The event was organized by Cornell Conflict-Free and the Cornell Africana Department. Cornell is on the verge of becoming the third university in the nation to pass a resolution aimed at making their campus conflict-free, after Stanford University and Westminster College. The resolution would solidify a signed agreement from the university’s administration to begin to factor whether electronics are certifiably conflict-free into their future purchasing decisions. Currently, the President of Cornell, David Skorton, is planning on making a decision on the resolution at the end of this spring semester.

Students at Cornell are also asking the university to only invest in businesses that are conflict-free, once that information is available. The following is the statement released by the student senate during the fall semester of 2010:

“With regard to its investment practices, Cornell should consider following the Stanford University Investment Committee, which in April approved a measure to invest only in businesses that are conflict mineral-free, as reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is time for Cornell to join Stanford with respect to investment in conflict-free companies and urge other colleges and universities to do the same.  As a collective unit, the United States higher education community holds significant economic influence that can feasibly impact the supply decisions of technology companies.”

In my presentation I covered the roots of the conflict in Congo, the proliferation of the conflict minerals trade and its connection to violence, and our own connection to this trade.  I emphasized that these minerals driving the conflict are central to the technologies that have allowed our culture to thrive. These minerals drive our businesses, our communications infrastructure, our social engagement, and our national security. Finally, I stressed the importance of campaigns like the conflict-free campus initiative and that it is the momentum and volume of consumer-led movements that are a critical factor to forcing companies and key policymakers in both the U.S. and central African governments to take action toward positive change.
Cornell is quickly emerging as a leader in the higher education community on the conflict-mineral issue and we look forward to seeing them take the next step toward committing to conflict-free.
Photo: Congo minerals (Sasha Lezhnev)