On Thursday, April 14, a crowd gathered in Washington DC for a private screening of the new documentary, Merci Congo, hosted by the Enough Project and Intel. From Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director Paul Freedman, Merci Congo explores the stories of individual activists – including a schoolteacher, a polio survivor, the CEO of a major tech company, a Congolese lawyer and an American college student – who are working to support peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over 115 leaders and influencers from the Obama Administration, Congress, think tanks, academia, and the private sector were in attendence.
Following the screening, Paul Freedman led a panel discussion featuring subjects from the film: Congolese activist Neema Namadamu, former UW – Madison Conflict-Free Campus Initiative leader Katy Johnson, and Enough’s Associate Director of Policy Sasha Lezhnev, as well as Intel’s Director for Global Supply Management, Carolyn Duran. The discussion focused on moving the lessons of the film from inspiration to action.
The nexus between advocacy, industry practices, and the development of peace in Congo was central to the conversation. The film stresses the importance of addressing Congo’s deadly conflict minerals trade in order to make way for sustainable peace to flourish. The panelists have each played a unique role in advancing this cause. Carolyn Duran reflected Intel’s ethos, noting “You shouldn’t think it’s ‘nice’ to have a conflict-free product, you should expect a conflict-free product.” Neema Namadamu looked forward to a day when the laptops used in her Maman Shujaa media centers, where she empowers women through access to technology, contain not conflict minerals, but peace minerals – from her country.
The evening concluded with remarks by Tim Mohin, former Chairman of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition, who stressed the collaborative nature of both the problem and the solutions, noting that “no single company can do it alone.”
The conflict-free movement has experienced momentous changes in recent years. The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative has increased its number of resolutions at school institutions to 23 – up from just 19 at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year – and Apple recently released its yearly conflict minerals report, indicating that 100% of its smelters have been audited and determined to be conflict-free. Likewise, there have been many positive developments in Congo, with 70 percent of tin, tantalum, and tungsten mines surveyed by the International Peace Information Service now declared conflict-free. While this momentum is encouraging, it must continue to be built and expanded upon to support peace and prosperity in Congo.
To learn more, visit Enough’s Resource Page
To get involved, visit www.conflictfreecampus.org
For more information about Merci Congo, visit www.mercicongo.com
Photo Credit: David Bohrer