Editor’s Note: After interning for Enough, Stefani Jones returned to Duke this fall with the goal of kick-starting a conflict-free student group on campus. In her guest post she tells about the successes the Coalition for a Conflict-Free Duke has had so far.
While I have always been interested in and passionate about human rights activism, I have often found it difficult to feel directly related to the causes I am advocating for. It is easy to look at crises and feel far away and disconnected, regardless of how real their impacts are and how imperative action is. But after interning for the Enough Project last summer, I learned about a movement that I could directly relate to and have an impact on: the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative.
I did not know much about the conflict in Congo before last summer, but it did not take long to grasp the gravity of the situation and recognize my role in perpetuating the conflict. The idea that my iPhone was fueling the deadliest conflict in the world was too large a fact for me to ignore. As a Jewish-American, I could not help but compare the number of deaths in Congo to that of the Holocaust. As a woman, I could not imagine the horrors of living in eastern Congo, which is considered one of the deadliest places in the world to be a woman or girl. And as a student, I felt a responsibility to speak up and reach out to my community to explain just how important it is to be conflict-free.
At Duke, as with many college campuses, our dialogue is often focused on problems of a limited scope and scale, like how late our buses are running or where we will be able to tailgate for our next football game. Bringing the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative to Duke meant more to me than just raising awareness about atrocities in Congo; it meant shifting the dialogue on campus to something worth talking about, to a serious issue that could allow students to make a real impact. And while we have already encountered a great amount of success at Duke, we are not willing to settle for anything less than the best efforts of the student body as a whole.
To this end, along with other student leaders across campus, I formed the “Coalition for a Conflict-Free Duke,” with the purpose of driving the Duke administration to commit to a conflict-free campus. Even since the beginning of the semester, we have been able to see significant progress on our campus. After much effort and a public campaign on campus that called on the administration to step up for Congo, Duke’s procurement department passed a statement regarding conflict minerals, and the Duke Student Government passed an unanimous resolution calling for an even stronger policy that would amend the university’s purchasing policy to favor those companies that are doing the most to free their supply chains of Congo’s conflict minerals.
Earlier this month, representatives of the Raise Hope for Congo campaign attended the Eureka Symposium, a forum hosted by the Duke Partnership for Service that focused on ways the Duke student body and surrounding community can take action for social change. The Raise Hope for Congo campaign discussed the issue of conflict minerals, and highlighted the impact that a statement from Duke can have on the conflict-free movement. During the symposium, we were able to build an even stronger coalition of students who want to push for corporate responsibility and move Duke to the forefront of the conflict-free movement.
I am proud that Duke is one of the eight college campuses that have issued a statement on the use of conflict minerals from eastern Congo, but we still have a ways to go at Duke and for peace in Congo. Now more than ever it is important to keep pressure on electronics companies, so I will continue to push for stronger policies at Duke where we have the opportunity to shift the conversation on my campus to something incredibly important and timely for our generation.
Are you interested in making your campus a leader in the conflict-free movement? Contact Alex Hellmuth at email@example.com to learn how you can bring the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative to your school.
Sophomore Stefani Jones is the chair of the Coalition for a Conflict-Free Duke and is majoring in political science and religion.