A version of this post originally appeared on the Sojourners blog.
Here it is, the “revolutionary” iPad3, with breakthrough retina display, quad-core processor and 4G LTE wireless connectivity. This next-generation technology is captivating, and if you’re an Apple fan, as I am, you’re going to want to trade in your iPad2 and put your name on the waiting list for the iPad3.
And yet, as a human rights activist, it gives me pause. With the innovation of the iPad 3 comes some critical missing features — including conflict free minerals from eastern Congo. To date, Apple has been a leader on this issue, but I know they can do more.
Though I am told my life will immensely improve with the ability to edit family photos at my fingertips, will the iPad3 improve the lives of women and children working in the mines of eastern Congo? Will the new ultrafast 4G LTE connection and global networks help accelerate Apple’s efforts to clean up their supply chain?
The deadliest war in the world has been terrorizing the people of eastern Congo for over 15 years, and one of the primary drivers of the conflict is the illicit, multi-million dollar trade in conflict minerals. Many of eastern Congo’s mines and mineral trading routes are controlled by armed groups who prey on communities, often times using rape as a tactic of war to cause insurmountable suffering that affects not only the survivor but her community as well. This conflict has claimed over 5 million lives.
What enables you and me to experience the best of innovation with the iPad3, and all our electronics products, are these conflict minerals: gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum (the ‘3Ts’). They are essential to the functioning of all our favorite new features for our cell phones, digital cameras, and iPads.
Though sourced from all around the world, gold and the 3Ts are found in abundance in eastern Congo. Miners there often work in slave-like conditions, with children as young as eight or nine working the mines. Communities see little benefit from eastern Congo’s natural resources while armed groups benefit hand-over-fist from the trade.
Minerals can be a source of development for the people of eastern Congo rather than a driver of war, but it’s going to take end-using companies like Apple to invest in both understanding the reach and impact of their supply chains, and working with industry peers to invest in legitimate mining in eastern Congo in order for such a shift to occur. As evangelicals and consumers, we have a moral responsibility to care for the people of eastern Congo with our demand for innovation in our technology.
Recently, in front of policy makers, experts from the private sector, and activists, Sojourners' CEO Jim Wallis rightly said, “Your neighbor is every man, woman, and child who touched the supply chain used to make your cell phone, used to make the clothes you wear, the computers you type on, and the cars you drive.”
Twenty, 10, or even five years ago, we would have never imagined that as consumers our demand for the best technology would have encouraged Apple to create the iPad3. Let’s leverage our consumer demand and encourage Apple to continue to exercise unprecedented leadership for Congo. I want them to bring the same level of innovation they bring to their products to help create peace for our neighbors in eastern Congo.