Stopping Abuse by Canadian Companies in the DRC

By Faruk Arslan, Gregorio Imeneo, Justin Kowalesky, Katie Pipitone, Allan Roy, Lina Sovani,  Mariana Huesca, Ashley Amendola

Abstract:

What is Conflict Mineral? ‘Conflict Minerals’ are minerals mined under conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, most notably occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If you own a mobile cell phone, mp3 player, or laptop computer, then it is likely that you have a little piece of the Congo in your pocket right now. The Congo possess 80% of the worlds ‘columbite- tantalite (coltan)’, a mineral that is able to hold a high electronic charge and is now a vital component to many small electronic devices. With its abundance of natural mineral resources, the DRC could be one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. Mines are now controlled by both government and rebel troops who are at war with each other, and occupy and control the communities, forcing men, women, and children to serve as miners under hard labour slave-like conditions with unsafe inadequate tools. The minerals are then smuggled across the border and sold by rebel groups for guns and weapons to fund their war, leaving no profit to the workers or the country, as today the Congo remains one of the poorest nations in the world. The conflict in the DRC has claimed more than 5 million lives, making it the planets deadliest conflict since World War II – yet this forgotten war rarely makes headlines in the world media.  Unfortunately this new mineral is now responsible for much of the turmoil, death, and devastation in the Congo, fuelling a bloody conflict where rape, forced labour, and brutal violence is used to paralyze communities at the expense our appetite for high-speed, small electronics.

Key words: Congo, coltan, cell phone, social movement, power, exploitation

How We Spoke Up in the Name of our Social Movement!

We have created a group from forth year honour degree sociology students and focused on Congo’s conflict minerals. Our group members are Gregorio Imeneo, Faruk Arslan, Justin Kowalesky, Katie Pipitone, Allan Roy, Lina Sovani,  Mariana Huesca, Ashley Amendola. We should mention Matthew Sheasgreen as honourary member who dropped this class the end of the February 2011. How it is that people speak up in the name of a social movement or issue? How to generate a popular movement on an issue, the members of a social movement must choose from different avenues such as whether they wish to form alliances, lobby the state to make changes in legislation, or use a specific platform or a physical and discursive space within which to advance (Bantjes, 2007: 292). This is something that we, as a group, had to really think about. Beginning back in January of 2011, we had to first have to decide on an issue, which in itself took a lot of time in trying to come to a consensus. Then there were all of the major and minor decision making processes along the way. Our vision, objective and mission statement took several weeks to form as it was initially difficult to gain a consensus on what we were actually trying to fight for, change, or bring awareness to with this project.

Eventually our vision was formed: Our mission is to create a public awareness campaign that reveals the significant role those electronic corporations in Canada and abroad play in contributing to the unethical trade of ‘conflict minerals’ that has further led to the political instability and ongoing human rights abuses in the DRC. The electronic industry is a multi-billion dollar entity that has unethically traded resources with the DRC in order to make popular high-demand consumer products such as cell phones, laptops, iPods, digital cameras..etc, and we would like to publicly educate consumers  (by disclosing the companies which use conflict minerals) on how their purchases contribute to the dangerous mining and civil war in the DRC, so that they can then make informed choices. Through public education, awareness, and demonstrations, we will attempt to have the general public sign petitions to put pressure on corporations who use conflict minerals – in hopes that through the power of numbers, we can pressure corporations to produce conflict free technologies. We will ally with ‘WarChild’, an international non-profit organization, with the intention of raising money for their cause and directing additional people to their organization. Through our public awareness campaign, ‘Wake Up to the Conflict’, we hope to raise awareness by informing the general public of the human rights abuses that are occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to the extraction of ‘conflict minerals’.

With our vision set, we began working collectively on our Wake Up to the Conflict campaign. We were able to accomplish the following:

–          Create a petition to the government of Canada with upwards of 500 signatures

–          Create a public awareness flyer to be handed out on our tabling day (300 distributed)

–          Made contact with political representatives and politicians, two of which wrote official letters of support for our campaign.

–          Made contact and allied with the international non-profit organization ‘WarChild’ who agreed to work closely with us (we raised $56.67 for their cause on our tabling day)

–          Made various eye-catching and effective posters to be display on our campaign day

–          Created a FaceBook page called ‘Wake up to the Conflict in Congo’

–          We had an article explaining our cause published in a York newspaper

–          Wrote letters and sent emails to electronic corporations urging them to stop and regulate the use of ‘conflict minerals’.

–          We had a table reserved through York University, and on Wednesday March 23 from 2-4:30 pm, we held our public awareness demonstration

–          We wrote multiple blogs reflecting on the processes and direction of our campaign

… all of this was done on a whopping budget of $0 !!!

Our group work has started in the early February 2011 in the Political Economy of Social Movement class with one of the powerful articles called “Blood Cells” states that, two former Canadian prime ministers have links to mining in the Congo. Brian Mulroney sits on the board of Barrick Gold. According to a 2005 Human Rights Watch report, Barrick operated a gold mine in the Congo’s Haut Uele District until 1998. In the mid 1990s, Joe Clark was both leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and a special advisor on Africa for the mining company First Quantum Mineral, according to a 2007 report by The Dominion. First Quantum’s website indicates the company is still doing business in the Congo (Browne, 2008; French, 2009).

While former prime ministers have been active in the Congo, Canadian governments have been almost completely silent on the Congo and the impacts of Canadian mining companies operating in the country. This, despite several United Nations reports drawing attention to illegal corporate exploitation of the Congo’s minerals. Eighty per cent of the population in the Congo live on 30 cents a day or less, with billions of dollars going out the back door and into the pockets of mining companies,’ says Maurice Carney, who works with the Washington-based Friends of the Congo. “It was against this backdrop that Apple released its eagerly awaited 3G iPhone in July, selling more than one million units its first weekend out. “Does the new iPhone use Congolese coltan? Several calls to Apple’s corporate office failed to get an answer to that question.

So what can people do who don’t want to be indirectly fueling a war but aren’t ready to stop using their phones? Carney suggests three things:

“1) Call their cell phone manufacturer and ask if their phones contain Congolese coltan.
“2) Do what they can to make sure their personal savings or pension money is not invested in companies doing business in the Congo.
“3) Support the Congolese people by raising awareness of the war.

Carney also says that recycling cell phones can help by reducing overall demand for coltan. Cell phone recycling services are available in some Canadian cities. Switching phones less often also helps lessen demand. “For manufacturers, Carney believes it’s not about getting Congolese coltan out of their products. Rather, “they can use their enormous power to pressure their governments to take action on the Congo. Carney states his organization would like companies to urge governments and their suppliers to ensure that any coltan coming from the Congo is acquired legally and benefits the Congolese people (Browne, 2008). Congo’s Angels states this: “Major United States players include: Cabot Corporation, Boston, MA, OM Group, Cleveland, Ohio,AVX, Myrtle Beach, SC, Eagle Wings Resources, International, Ohio, Trinitech International, Ohio, Kemet Electronics Corporation, Greenville, SC , Vishay Sprague. Malvern, PA” (Browne, 2008).

Corporations from other countries have been a part of the coltan exploitation chain. These companies include but are not limited to Germany’s HC Starc and EPCOS, China’s Nigncxia, and Belgium’s George Forrest International. Once the coltan is processed and converted to capacitors, it is then sold to companies such as Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Alcatel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard , IBM, Lucent, Ericsson and Sony for use in a wide assortment of everyday products ranging from cell phones to computer chips and game consoles.  Amnesty International details that there have been many human rights violations reported due to the economic exploitation (Browne, 2008; Toronto Star, 2009).

For example:

  • Thousands of Congolese civilians have been tortured and killed during military operations to secure mineral-rich lands.
  • Foreign forces from Rwanda and Uganda have promoted interethnic conflicts and mass killings as a means to secure mining zones.
  • Combatants of the various forces in the region have killed or tortured independent miners and traders for their minerals or money.
  • Many of the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, driven from their homes into neighboring countries or other parts of the DRC, have died from malnutrition and lack of access to humanitarian assistance.
  • Children as young as 12 have been among those forced into hard labor in the mines.
  • Human rights defenders who have reported or criticized such abuses have been beaten, detained, forced to flee, or killed.

 Figure I:  Electronic companies ranked by progress on conflict mineral

These are top ten Canadian Companies involved the mineral conflict in Congo: “Paladin Energy Ltd., Namibia First Quantum Minerals Ltd., AMGOLD Corp., Katang Mining Ktd., Anvil Mining Ltd., Minerals Ltd., Mining Inc., Banro Corporation,  Egypt Ltd., Mantra Resources Ltd. (McCarthy, 2010). At the end of 2008, Canadian companies had mining assets of $21-billion (U.S.) in 33 countries, although 92 per cent of that was concentrated in just eight countries: Democratic Republic of Congo; Madagascar; Zambia; Tanzania; South Africa; Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The strong Canadian presence is the result of the country’s traditional mining prowess and the financial clout of the Toronto Stock Exchange, which is the world’s largest capital market for the mining sector. The exchange has 169 listed companies that have projects in Africa, from giants like Barrick Gold Corp. to exploration companies like Orezone (McCarthy, 2010).

Figure II: Distribution of Canadian Mining Investment in Africa

Source: Natural Resources Canada – Figure is taken from McCarthy’s article, 2010.

Our plan:

—  To increase public awareness regarding Conflict Minerals and their use in the electronics they are purchasing.

—  To write e-mails to the companies listed in the graph above, asking them what they are doing to progress towards the responsible sourcing of Minerals in the Congo.

How we approached this:

—  We made flyers with this graph on it and information and set up a table at York.

—  We talked to people to increase awareness.

—  We both encouraged companies as well as pressured them by using the competitive nature of the electronics market as a tool.

What are some of the problems that can be encountered with this approach?

—  People being so detached from the products means that awareness may not alter their purchasing decisions.

—  Unless we can prove to be a threat to companies’ income, we may not be taken seriously.

—  Outsourced labour can be used as a way to escape responsibility and accountability.

—  Even if we are successful, we are indirectly perpetuating inequality by using a system that creates oppression, to fight oppression.

What you can do to help?

—  *Educate yourself – about the significant role electronic companies in Canada play in contributing to the unethical trade of  ‘conflict minerals’ that has further led to the political instability and ongoing human rights abuses in the DRC.

—  *Make informed choices – ask manufacturers where their minerals are coming from before you purchase their product.

—  *Sign Petitions and write to your MP to put pressure on corporations who use conflict minerals, or the governments who turn a  blind eye to the regulation of the technology industries – in hopes that through the power of numbers, we can pressure corporations to produce conflict-free technologies.

—  *Donate to organizations who are supporting the people of the Congo such as ‘WarChild’, an international non-profit organization that has a special division in the DRC to help to reduce the effects of poverty, provide an education to, and defend and promote human rights for children effected by the atrocities that are now occurring due to the extraction of conflict minerals.

We have allied with a Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Guildwood, John McKay who sent letter to support our campaign he was the sponsor of Bill C-300, An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Oil, Mining and Gas in the Developing World in 2009. McKay wished to extend his support to the Wake Up to the Conflict Campaign. McKay mentions that,

“In certain cases, the activities of mining, oil, and gas corporations, operating in developing countries can contribute to and even ignite conflict. The resources that are extracted from these areas are then sold to developed countries, and used to make many of the electronic devices that we enjoy today. The current government however, has done little to curb the practice of the unethical trade of conflict minerals, and has demonstrated its apathy for corporate social responsibility through the defeat of Bill C-300_ Along with the Wake up to Conflict campaign, I urge the Canadian government to follow the lead of the United States, and implement legislation to prohibit the trade of conflict minerals from the violence prone Great Lakes region in Africa. I also urge the government to implement the recommendations of the 2007 Roundtable Report on Corporate Social Responsibility, and create an independent Ombudsman to investigate the allegations of abuse by Canadian companies. I commend the Wake up to Conflict Campaign for championing such a worthy cause.” (McKay, 2011).

Our second ally was MP Rob Oliphand who has sent letter as well at the following:

“I am pleased to inform you of my support for the Wake Up to the Conflict campaign at YorkUniversity.

Wake Up to the Conflict addresses a very serious issue, and one that is highly relevant to Canadians.Natural resources are an important part of Canada’s economy. It is, therefore, crucial that we, as a community concerned about ethics, sustainability arid transparency, ensure these minerals are extracted in a fair way. Furthermore, it is our duty to ensure that all minerals present in the electronics we use are produced ethically and fairly. The Congo, on which the project focuses, has been rife with conflict for years, and is certainly in need of Canadian assistance. We should do our part to raise this issue strongly and thoroughly to help build an economy based on justice and equality. It is-unfortunate that Liberal MP John McKay’s Corporate Social Responsibility Act failed to pass as it would have placed controls on our mining companies overseas. As informed citizens, we must work to pressure any and all abusive companies, particularly until such time as effective regulative legislation is passed. I lend my strong support to this project, as well as groups such as Human Rights Watch, WarChild and Mine Watch, to spread awareness of Canadian mining activities overseas and its impact on our daily lives.”( Oliphand, 2011).

We have created a petition to address this issue and collected over six hundred signatures with this statement:

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:

“The government of Canada failed to pass the Bill C-300 which was designed to put controls on mining companies overseas in 2009. Conservatives have vowed to kill the bill, which is opposed by Canada’s mining industry. Mining companies are big business in Canada and, with about 200 active lobbyists, a powerful voice in Ottawa. We target to build the consumer voice for conflict-free electronics – cell phones, laptops, and other devices that do not finance war in eastern Congo.

Canadian companies have to respect host governments and local communities. Watchdog groups like MiningWatch Canada and the Halifax Initiative, both based in Ottawa, allege some companies spend money buying guns, employing paramilitaries, bribing officials and forcefully relocating entire communities. Not only is there a behavioural risk to individual companies, but there is also a risk to our national reputation. We would like to see a new Bill with an ombudsman for taxpayer money to investigate allegations of Canadian-financed abuses in the developing world in the future and rebuild our national reputation.

Therefore, our petitioners request that parliament must put pressure on the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of international trade for the responsibility of holding corporations accountable for their practices by submitting annual reports to the House of Commons and the Senate for review. The New Bill should also allow transgressors to be publicly lambasted and deprived of investment from the Canada Pension Plan and other government investments. “

We used the ideas from the networked politics article by being collaborative and not competitive. Our article was published April 4th in the York’s Vandoo Newspaper, we have reached out to York’s student body to collaborate with us and try and pressure the companies to stop exploiting the Congolese workers. Moreover, as stated in a previous blog we targeted consumers to collaborate together and look for electronic providers that participated in conflict-free minerals. In the article Networked Politics, it talked about how the new economic order has impacted the way social movements have organized. Or rather “movements broadened the idea of politics into the realm of the personal relationships between people and the relationship between humans and the environment.” In our campaign “wake up to the conflict” we used media outlets to create a more inclusive environment for people to learn and respond to our social movement. This approach aimed to help us participate in a big culture that promoted peer-to-peer learning. Once our article is published we hope that York’s Student body will become more aware and educated on this issue as well as contact us and help further our education on this topic. This will allow our network to expand and the mobility of our movement will have increased. Moreover, being published in a student run newspaper helps up speak directly to the students. This way they are able to participate with our campaign at multiple levels. Whether it is by spreading the word to their friends or whether it is to stop using service providers who use the most conflict minerals. By using the newspaper to reach people, along with other media outlets like Facebook we think that this collective action will transform peoples vision and stand up for the cause by taking a commitment to change.

Our purpose to use the newspaper to reach out to the student body is because we live in a very technological world and this facilitation allows us to be widely recognized and have more legitimacy. In Networked Politics it talked about three “Charter Principles:”

1) Respect for diversity

2) No individual can speak in the name of the network

3) Decisions are made on consensus

By connecting with York’s student body through the school newspaper we hope that first we are respecting diversity by constantly extending the network to new actors. Secondly, we want the student body to know that if you do collaborate with us we are not institutional in the sense that we have one mandate that fits all. We are here to create awareness in the hopes that we save lives in the Congo by making people aware of service providers and mining companies that take part in this act. Moreover, we list you companies that are most interested in using conflict minerals and ones that are interested more in conflict free minerals so everyone can choose on their own and have their own mandate. Lastly, all decision are not from a structured organization but by a consensus and that it why we created an open Facebook group where people can go and post their ideas, views and opinions of this matter.

It is important to mention that this “open source” that the article talked about is a key element in our campaign, because we hope to create legible, transparent and openness. This has been achieved through our newspaper article that has illustrated to the York body what our vision is and what we hope to achieve (transparency). Moreover, our openness come by asking the student body to take part in our campaign by uniting with us and doing whatever they can to contribute to this cause, so as a collective identity we can fight for this issue. We hope that this inclusion and connectivity through our media tactics will bring the York student body together and participate in our campaign.

We think that this project truly showed us just how much time and effort must go in to a social movement, and some of the difficulties that are associated with the process. Having a budget of $0 is a problem for many grassroots movements, as it is very difficult for people to set aside the time and energy to participate and complete this unpaid work. In our case, it was a school project, so our reward was a high letter grade for hard work, so we were compensated for our efforts in some way, but if this was not the case, then effort or even participation at all from members may have decreased.

There is also difficulty in trying to get the general public (or in our case students at York University) to stop and even take the time to look at our cause. On our tabling day, it took much effort to get people to stop, listen, and sign the petition. Our members had high energy and desperately tried to engage with the crowd using various tactics, ranging from yelling “You have blood in your cell phones!!!”, to stopping passerby’s with a concerned face asking them to “please take the time to think about the human rights abuses in the Congo”, to handing out candy, and asked for spare change in a jar which read “Change for Change”. Overall, we found that it was extremely difficult to get people to listen to our cause.

“The only way that you can take on global capitalism is with a global movement of people”(Bantjes, 2007: 320), and this project truly made me realize just how difficult the process of getting people involved in your movement is, let alone the intended result of getting people to make changes in their life that support your cause. Now that the end of our project is soon approaching, I am left to wonder if we did contribute to making a change on this important issue…  It is doubtful that our monetary fundraising effort of $56.67 will make any real change in the lives of the people of the Congo, however, we did get over 500 signatures, many of whom never even knew what a ‘conflict mineral’ was prior to us telling them. And so, it is my hope that maybe even a few of those people will think about the issue before purchasing their next electronic from a company who uses ‘conflict minerals’. It is very difficult to create and implement a social movement that leads to long term change, especially in the context of a three month time constraint- but in the end, at least we can say that we tried to make a change, and that it something to be proud of!

‘Coalition Building’ is strategic collaboration with another organization whose social identities are similar and overlapping in some ways, yet distinct in others (Bantjes, 2007:343).

—   We decided to network and ally with international non-profit organization with a division in the DRC – it was not a practical financially viable option to all just pick up and head to the Congo and help.

—  WarChild is an international non-profit organization which sets up local programs for children in the Congo which help to reduce the effects of poverty, provide and education to, and defend and promote human right for children effected by the atrocities that are now occurring die to the extraction of ‘conflict minerals’

—  Our allying with WarChild brought a sort of authenticity or legitimacy to our public awareness campaign.

—  We raised $56.67 to give to their cause with our “Change for Change” donation jars

—  WarChild was very impressed with our public awareness flyer, asked if they could post it is a fact-sheet on their website!

—  The new economic order has impacted the way social movements have organized. Or rather movements broadened the idea of politics into the realm of the personal relationships between people and the relationship between humans and the environment. In our campaign “wake up to the conflict” we used media outlets to create a more inclusive environment for people to learn and respond to our social movement.

—  We used the ideas from the Networked politics article by being collaborative and not competitive. In our article that will be published April 4th in the York’s Vandoo Newspaper, we have reached out to York’s student body to collaborate with us and try and pressure the companies to stop exploiting the Congolese workers. Moreover, as stated in a previous blog we targeted consumers to collaborate together and look for electronic providers that participated in conflict-free minerals.

—  This approach aimed to help us participate in a big culture that promoted peer-to-peer learning. Once our article is published we hope that York’s Student body will become more aware and educated on this issue as well as contact us and help further our education on this topic. This will allow our network to expand and the mobility of our movement will have increased. Moreover, being published in a student run newspaper helps up speak directly to the students. This way they are able to participate with our campaign at multiple levels. Whether it is by spreading the word to their friends or whether it is to stop using service providers who use the most conflict minerals. By using the newspaper to reach people, along with other media outlets like Facebook we think that this collective action will transform peoples vision and stand up for the cause by taking a commitment to change.

—  Our purpose to use the newspaper to reach out to the student body is because we live in a very technological world and this facilitation allows us to be widely recognized and have more legitimacy.

—  It is important to mention that this “open source” that the article talked about is a key element in our campaign, because we hope to create legible, transparent and openness. This has been achieved through our newspaper article that has illustrated to the York body what our vision is and what we hope to achieve (transparency). Moreover, our openness come by asking the student body to take part in our campaign by uniting with us and doing whatever they can to contribute to this cause, so as a collective identity we can fight for this issue. We hope that this inclusion and connectivity through our media tactics will bring the York student body together and participate in our campaign.

Emma Cosgrove, Manager of Stakeholder Relations for ‘WarChild Canada’ has sent an e-mail and mentioned that,  “… I am very impressed with all of your and efforts towards the cause. I would love to have the information you come up with once you are completed your project to share with other volunteers and supporters. I am also excited to hear how the awareness and fundraising goes, as I am sure there are many students walking around with conflict minerals in their backpacks and have no idea about the cause and effect of it all. Your plans sound great, very well organized! I think it will be interesting to see students’ reactions to your information…”

We used culture jamming techniques to help illustrate our message and relate it to the consumers within our school. I created slogans and ads that tried to attach products that most people have come across to our conflict in Congo. We Attacked big name brands, such as HP, Cannon, and Nintendo, and exposed their hidden truths. These images caught their attention and led to many to ask questions about the conflict, even though they seemed reluctant to sign the petition, the ads were successful in educating them about the seriousness of the issue, and in some cases the ads brought the conflict so close to home that some wanted to sign after seeing them. Stuart Hall talks about Images produce meaning within society, so if we break the common images of these companies and start attaching their products to war, and conflict minerals, we break down the meaning the corporations intend to produce and create one that exposes the truth behind their products. We used it as a tool to express ourselves and our opinions, a tool to express our freedom of speech; we can’t sit outside HP, Canon, and Nintendo headquarters trying to express how we feel about their products because it simply won’t have an impact on those who buy their products. By expressing ourselves through these ads, it educated consumers, showed them the reality behind the products and it’s more of a beneficial tool to express opinions and gain support at the same time. The only thing i do regret is not making more copies of these images we produced. If we had hundreds of copies we could of left a greater impact around York. If we scattered these culture jamming ads around the school we had more potential of delivering our message without even having them come to our table, we could of reached so many. I made sure also that all of our ads had our Wake up to the Conflict brand because those that read the image can automatically know where it came from and if interested can search us on Facebook and then they could understand our cause and what our goals are. This would of been more beneficial and effective if we printed hundreds of copies and spread them throughout the school, not only are we building consumer awareness but they can know who we are, therefore our group gets more exposure. Also, moving into branding… i tried to choose a name that can cause a reaction to those who read it.

We thought that readers might want to see what Nintendo responded to our e-mail. They gave a general response to taking human rights on a global scale very seriously, but did not mention anything specific to the issue of conflict minerals. We expected that this is what would happen, however the e-mail does give me some information to look into. The next step for us is to look into the CSR Procurement Guidelines and see how they apply to our specific social movement issue Another thing we find interesting is that, as we mentioned their commitment to ensuring human rights are met are focused on the inspections conducted of the factories of their production partners. I looked through their corporate social responsibility report and while it may be true that they take this responsibility seriously, it is limited in scope as it only involved the rights of workers in the factories and has no specific reference to anything involving the sourcing of minerals or other resources used in the actual production. Anyway, here is the response from Mike Chandler, Nintendo of America Inc:

“Hello, we take our responsibilities as a global company very seriously. Nintendo outsources the manufacture and assembly of all Nintendo hardware to our production partners and therefore is not directly involved in the sourcing of raw materials that are ultimately used in our products. Yet we are committed to an ethical policy on sourcing, manufacture and labor and we expect our production partners to take those responsibilities seriously as well. In order to ensure the continued fulfillment of our social responsibility throughout our supply chain, we established the Nintendo CSR Procurement Guidelines in July 2008. We require that our production partners comply with these guidelines, which are based on relevant laws, international standards and guidelines that focus on protecting human rights, ensuring workplace safety, promoting corporate ethics and safeguarding the environment. In addition, we carry out on-site inspections of our production partners to understand actual workplace conditions and try to raise awareness about corporate social values, including the importance of respecting human rights and ensuring safe labor conditions. By visiting and communicating with production partners, we deepen mutual understanding and build trusting relationships for promoting CSR procurement. We provide all production partners with the results of these inspections, which include specific suggestions for improvement as appropriate. If we were to find that any of our production partners did not meet our guidelines, we would require them to modify their practices according to Nintendo policy. For more information about Nintendo’s Corporate Social Responsibility report, please visit our web page. Sincerely” We don’t have to believe their respond but we respect their explanation.

We did ‘The Power Flower’ exercise that we looked at during class truly got us thinking, not only about us as students inside of the classroom at that current moment in time, but also us as a group trying to create a social movement, and more importantly us in relation to the people in which we are trying to help with our cause. During the exercise, it became clear that for the most part, the majority of the class and thus our movement scored between 8-10+ on the ‘power flower’. As we had just previously had a meeting with a representative from the WarChild earlier in the week, our thoughts went directly to their cause in trying to help the children of the Congo who are facing the atrocities due to the extraction of conflict minerals. I wondered how a child or even a young adult in our age demographic would rank on this flower in relation to the dominant norm in which power tends to rely. We suppose that it would look something a little like this (on average, for the most part)

Figure III: The Power Flower

Category

The Powerful

Us

Them

Human/Non Human Human                    * Human                        * Human                     *
Ability/Disability Ability                     * Ability                        * Ability                     *
Relationship to Nature Dominate Nature    * Dominate Nature        * Live off the land
Geographic Region Origin Western World       * Western World           * Third World Africa
Geographic Region Current Urban Space           * Urban Space               * Undeveloped Space
Sexual Orientation Heterosexual           * Heterosexual              * Heterosexual           *
Sex Male                        * Male/Female Male/Female           *
Race White                      * White/Ethnic Congolese
Ethnic Group Anglo-European     * Anglo-Euro/Others    * African
Language English                    * English                       * Congolese
Religion Secular/Christian    * Secular/Christian/Other

*

Probably not Christian
Family Nuclear                   * Nuclear                       * Deceased members
Social Class Upper Class            * Middle Class Impoverished Lower class
Age Group 40-65 years             * 20-30 years 20-30 years
Education University               * University                   * Illiterate
 

Total=

 

15

 

11

 

4

Although this chart is indeed an overgeneralization, especially considering the fact that the members within our group are of different gender and ethnic origins- for the most part, we sit fairly high in numbers. Whereas, those in the Congo who are most effected by the devastating consequences brought about by the mining sit very low in numbers making it difficult to gain power in their positions. The number 4 given to the Congolese was actually a generous estimate giving an automatic  point for male and female, and heterosexual and disability, therefore it should be noted that a women living in the Congo with a disability could potentially only score one point, and that is for simply being human. Completing this exercise with the average Congolese in mind, truly reinforces the need for our campaign that we are currently working on, and the need for us to help to advocate for their rights.

We have some success because we have studied how to build social movement and defined our roles and tasks democratically. Are we bureaucratic or democratic structured movement? Are we defined roles and tasks? How was the role of technology? What is our power Structure? Has our group inevitable become bureaucratic or authoritarian?

Conclusion

The main question being, are we a bureaucratic movement, or more of a democratic structure? We would like to think that we are democratic, but then we keep thinking of Katie staying on top of everyone, basically making sure everything gets done. At this point we think, alright, she’s the leader for the way she distributes tasks, and the way she stays on you to make sure you’re focused. Then we think of Faruk’s power, he knows anyone and everyone that’s important, and his academic background, and accomplishments are impeccable, so he demands the most respect. Also, he takes on the most difficult tasks, and always gets them completed easily. The next person that comes to mind is Justin, he encourages the team, just by going around and asking for high fives before we meet and joking around with him definitely makes the group atmosphere fun. Then there’s Gregorio, according to Katie, he is always the one calming everyone down, sometimes negatively, by telling her to stop worrying and that everything will get done. Analyzing our group we are definitely a democratic group.
None of us have defined roles, as Michel-Weber state is the most efficient way of doing things, like a bureaucratic structure, but our roles are self defined. It’s almost as if our personalities take on our roles within the group, and it works.  We don’t know how much of a coincidence it was that our personalities mesh so well, but based on our democratic group, it feels as if everything is going well. If we were to evolve to a larger organization, and end up with 10 people like Justin and  Gregorio, and only 2 Katies then maybe there wouldn’t be enough Katies pushing us, if it were the opposite then maybe we would become a fast paced organization, probably more bureaucratic. However, the way our personalities are right now, it works well.

Part of our approach is to target the companies who are not doing enough to ensure they are not using ‘Conflict Minerals’ and in turn are helping to finance the war in the Congo. We are targetting these companies by spreading public awareness and sharing the ranking graph provided by The Enough Project which ranks electronic companies by their progress in the responsible sourcing of minerals used in their products. We are then writing letters to the companies, both at the top of the list (those doing well) and the bottom (those doing badly).  The purpose of this is to both pressure the companies that are not making any progress and to let the companies that are making progress know that we are noticing their efforts. Now, all of this relates to last class’s subject matter because the bottom line is that we are ultimately targeting these companies’ income, in other words, using the market as a social tool.  We are pressuring them by letting them know that we are making others aware of the part they are playing in the deaths of so many people in the Congo. The letter we were writing to Nintendo for example will be letting them know that we like their products but that with the competitive nature of the gaming industry, it would be in their best interest to take the necessary steps in the direction of responsible sourcing. We will be catering the letter specifically to Nintendo by stating that as they must be aware, recently Play station 3 came out with motion sensor controllers and Xbox 360 now has the Xbox Kinect, both of which are now able to compete with Nintendo Wii’s motion sensor controllers, which was previously the main advantage that the Wii had over the other systems. We thought of this after our class discussion on how a lot of people wouldn’t stop buying certain items all together. It occurred to me that while that may be true, there are other companies making the same or similar products and thus, we can still affect the profit margin of companies who are not willing to work towards responsible mineral sourcing by using public awareness and the competitive market to pressure them.

By naming ourselves Wake up to the Conflict we left room for questions for the reader. Those that passed by and saw the name automatically wanted to know what conflict they have been missing; the first reaction is… what conflict? And that’s where we step in. Because we didn’t specify what conflict it was in our name, this forced those interested to ask questions, which made them instantly engage with us, allowed us an opportunity to explain our cause. If we specified in our name what the conflict was and where, it would probably lead to less people coming to our stand and asking us about the issue. This name creates a initial reaction from the reader, this is what we wanted, to get them interested from the start, before explaining the issues involved.

That being said, we still maintain what we said in class about how using the market as a social movement tool can help to affect individual issues but does not serve to make sure that the same kind of exploitation doesn’t arise again.  We think that our group is doing a great job at approaching our social movement in a multi-faceted way. We realize that when it comes to the issue of ‘Conflict Minerals’ in the Congo and the war it is causing, there are many players involved and many layers to consider targeting.  This came about greatly in part to the fact that we all have different approaches and focuses we think are most important or effective in accomplishing our goals.  That is something that we genuinely thought was going to be problematic at first because we spent a good class or two arguing on what our focus was going to be.  But it turned out to be a good way to get ideas out and realize that there is no way to really make an impact on this social issue with a single focus. We can work on pressuring individual companies, but we also have to increase public awareness on the issue and at the same time try to pressure the government to implement better regulations by putting together petitions. We are also making sure we are making allies with groups like War Child and people who could help to influence others on our cause, like John McKay and Rob Oliphand. This project taught us how difficult the process of getting people involved in a movement is, let alone the intended result of getting people to make changes in their life that support your cause. Upon completion of our campaign, we are left to wonder whether we did contribute to making a change on this important issue?  It is doubtful that our fundraising effort of $56.67 will make any real change in the lives of the people of the Congo, however, we did get over 600 signatures, many of whom never even knew what a ‘conflict mineral’ was prior to us telling them. And so, it is our hope that maybe even a few of those people will think about the issue before purchasing their next electronic from a company who uses ‘conflict minerals’.  It is very difficult to create and implement a social movement that leads to long term change, especially in the context of a three month time constraint- but in the end, at least we can say that we tried to make a change, and that it something to be proud of!

 

References:

Bantjes, R. 2007. Chapter 3, Movement innovations in the 1960s – Resource mobilization, Social Movements In A Global Context. Toronto : Canadian Scholars Inc, 2007. Print, 67-100.

Bantjes, R. 2007. Chapter 4, Resistance to State Terror, Social Movements In A Global Context. Toronto : Canadian Scholars Inc, 2007. Print, 101-134.

Bantjes, R. 2007. Chapter 5, Culture and the Politics of Identity, Social Movements In A Global Context. Toronto : Canadian Scholars Inc, 2007. Print, 135-168.

Bantjes, R. 2007. Chapter 6, Bureaucratization and Anarchist Resistance, Social Movements In A Global Context. Toronto : Canadian Scholars Inc, 2007. Print, 169-190.

Bantjes, R. 2007. Chapter 12, In search of Global Public Space, Social Movements In A Global Context. Toronto : Canadian Scholars Inc, 2007. Print, 350-381

French Cameron. 2009. Proposed Canadian law would police miners abroad, Reuters.

Browne, Robin. 2008. Blood Cells. Coltan in phones exacerbates crisis in the Congo. The Dominion News from the grassroots. A version of the article appeared previously in rabble.ca Retrieved and available at

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2052

McCarthy, Shawn. 2011. Canada a quiet powerhouse in Africa’s mining sector. Globe and Mail.

MacKay, John. 2011. The Support Letter for  for the Wake Up to the Conflict.

Oliphand, Rob.  2011. The Support Letter for the Wake Up to the Conflict.

The Toronto Star. 2009. Canadian mining firms face abuse allegation.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  January 2010. Violence displaces 15,000 Congolese civilians over past two months. 26 Jan 2010. http://www.unhcr.org/4b5f143c9.html