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CU-Boulder Student Government Adopts Congo Conflict-Free Resolution

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CU-Boulder Student Government Adopts Congo Conflict-Free Resolution

Posted by Enough Team on October 19, 2011

CU-Boulder Student Government Adopts Congo Conflict-Free Resolution

Editor's Note: Student activists Erin Musso and Genevieve Smith are proud to announce that the student goverment at University of Colorado-Boulder, where they're both seniors, has passed a conflict-free resolution, becoming the first public university to do so.

A year and a half ago we had a completely different relationship with our cell phones. It all changed when we learned the deadliest conflict since World War II, which claims over 45,000 lives per month, is largely fueled by these gadgets—our cell phones—we hold so dear.

While interning with a non-profit dedicated to bringing peace to war-torn regions, we spent the summer learning about the conflict in Congo, the trade in Congo’s conflict minerals, the use of rape as a weapon of war, and our role in perpetuating the violence through our consumer demand. From then on, our cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices became constant reminders that action must be taken for the people of eastern Congo.

Last fall in the capstone class for our leadership program at University of Colorado at Boulder, we decided to focus our semester project on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We learned about the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, and with our group of seven dedicated student leaders, we formed a new student group called Conflict Free at CU. We met twice weekly and put together a series of events to work towards gaining student support for the conflict-free campaign on our campus. Throughout the semester, Conflict Free at CU’s membership grew to over 40 students. We hosted a week-long awareness campaign that involved a coffin display containing cell phones and facts about the conflict to draw student attention and raise awareness. We collected over 500 student signatures in support of passing a conflict-free resolution at CU that would send a strong message to electronics companies asking them to clean up their supply chains.

Our main goal was to pass a bill in the student government that would commit CU-Boulder to giving preference to companies that make strong efforts to create a transparent supply chain, and to purchase conflict-free products if or when they become available. The bill failed to pass last November by only a few votes due to concerns over possible financial implications for the university and about meeting the obligation in the event that the university cost centers could no longer purchase from companies they preferred. We disagreed with this assessment because the substance of the bill was intended to encourage the university to prefer companies that are doing the most to comply with federal legislation on conflict minerals.

Although disheartened, we were also determined to change the mindset on campus, so we went back to our student government in late spring. With the added momentum of the conflict-free movement that has been sweeping the country, with conflict-free resolutions enacted by seven schools, and the passage of conflict-free resolution in the California state legislature, our student body government was more receptive. The student body president gave his full support. On October 6, the “resolution of support for a conflict free campus” was passed. After more than a year of effort, our student government spoke up!

We are excited and proud to be the first public university to pass a resolution and add a strong voice to the movement. CU has the most powerful student government in the nation, as it is the most financially influential and autonomous student government. This resolution is a true representation of the sentiment of us as students, as future leaders, and as globally minded citizens taking a stand for social justice.

As Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Now is the time to demand responsibility, spread awareness, and create true, lasting change to put an end to this extreme injustice and the deadliest conflict of our generation.

We are proud to attend a university that has taken action to end the atrocities in the Congo. But we know that more must be done to ensure the realization of conflict-free products. The CFCI movement is starting to take hold in universities across the country. We will continue to do our part in spreading awareness about the conflict and about how we can help end it. We will join with other students and continue to call and write our electronics companies to demand that their products are conflict-free. Who will join us?

Genevieve Smith is a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder studying international relations, with a focus on leadership as well as peace and conflict studies.

Erin Musso is a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder double majoring in political science and international affairs with certificates in leadership and peace and conflict studies.