Ellen MacAskill

Update: Call For a Conflict-Free Glasgow

On Friday 14th, four of us from the committee attended a meeting with David Newall, Secretary of Court for the University, and Jo Gallagher, Head of Procurement. As Ruth has pointed out it was frustratingly similar to the meeting she had with him on the subject this time last year. I took notes throughout the meeting and thought it would be worth updating you all on what happened. From here we can plan our next steps so that the new committee can continue the fight into the next academic year.

Unfortunately it seemed that Gallagher had not been fully briefed on the campaign at hand; not realising that it only focussed on the procurement of technology. She emphasised that the university does not take full responsibility for the sourcing of materials. Instead this goes through a framework of guidelines decided by the umbrella group APUC. This is governed by EU regulations. She said that she would enquire whether the APUC currently have a system of due diligence and corporate responsibility.

Newall’s two issues seemed to be as follows: that the university must not discriminate unfairly against companies or breach contractual obligations in its procurement policy; and that the university cannot make political statements as an institution. His excuse for unresponsiveness was that conflict minerals are “not important enough” from the university’s perspective.

He justified the political undertones of GU’s divestment from the tobacco industry by saying that it should promote healthy living and that extensive research here goes into the prevention of cancer. This is indisputable. More closely linked to CFCI is the movement calling for the divestment of fossil fuels. The issue is yet to be brought to university court. It struck us that this campaign is being viewed in terms of ethical and sustainable development – as should CFCI. (Personally I find it difficult to see why the university is comfortable to tacitly support genocide via its consumerism, but uncomfortable with making a political statement against it.)

Both Newall and Gallagher iterated implicitly that a top-down approach is the only way to push the university towards change. Clearly they feel out of their depth discussing Congo. It is understandable to want to avoid making bold statements which they are unable to follow up with action. However, Ruth requested that Newall send on an official response explaining why the university is not participating in the movement.

We discussed the progress that support for Congo has made worldwide in the last year. More companies, including Apple, are investigating their supply chains and recognising the conflict. The EU will vote on bringing in guidance for responsible companies relating to conflict minerals later this year*. The success that certain campuses in the USA have seen was mentioned, but dismissed as being allowed under very different systems of policy and procurement.

To close the meeting Ruth handed over the petition, which has been circulated on campus and collected over 400 signatures.

Newall pushed the importance of the SRC’s support as he thinks that having the issue taken to court is the first feasible step. Since the meeting we have discovered that the motion which was sent to the SRC was not in fact passed, as we had believed. This accounts for the lack of movement from them and will hopefully be rectified soon.

Breffni O’Connor, the new SRC president, is enthusiastic to help us get the motion passed at the next council meeting in April. In an email she said: “[The meeting] is also the last of the year. So it will need to be passed at this one. I think the best way to do it is to send us the motion but also to prepare a presentation to our council. It was done this was by Climate Action and I think it went down a lot better, if there’s no presentation people might not concentrate in full. And our council will fire you lots of questions, these discussions usually last a while.”

There is also talk of forming an inter-society coalition. This has been very effective for other events and campaigns, such as the Coalition for Syrian Refugees which Amnesty took part in earlier this year. Many NGOs and charities on campus are likely to be interested in supporting us. This will hopefully start up in the next academic year, as at the moment many societies are having AGMs and changing their committees. The increase in exposure that CFCI would get from broadening its audience in Glasgow is vital to progress.

To sign the petition, or read the motion in full, click here: www.guamnesty.org.uk/2013/02/petition-for-a-conflict-free-glasgow/

If you missed my last blog summarising the campaign, read it here: http://www.guamnesty.org.uk/2014/02/call-for-a-conflict-free-glasgow/

*Draft legislation proposed by the European Commission on 5th March 2014 http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2014/march/tradoc_152227.pdf

Ellen MacAskill

Call for a Conflict Free Glasgow

The Conflict Free Campus Initiative has been growing up gradually at Glasgow University since GU Amnesty International took on the campaign in 2012. So why are so many people still in the dark about the bloodshed that fuels our technology habit?

CFCI calls for regulation of minerals used by large Western technology manufacturers, bought from mines in the war-ridden Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. The war there has dominated the country’s landscape since the early 1990s. The International Rescue Committee estimated that 5.4 million fatalities have occurred as a result since 1996. Rape is used as a weapon of control over the population and children are involved in fighting from a young age. The statistics are staggering for a conflict which receives such little media coverage. We rely on these countries for minerals such as gold, tungsten, tantalum, and the ores that produce tin. Armed rebels groups, domestic and foreign, pillage the land’s natural resources then sell them on to large corporations.

A lack of transparency in the production line means that consumers of products such as phones and laptops remain ignorant.

At university we spend millions of pounds cumulatively on technology. By sourcing products from companies that check and regulate their supply chain, we can encourage other companies to do the same. But no one is asking Glasgow’s library to send its computers to the dump. CFCI calls for university policy to prioritise the increasing number of companies who have expressed concern over the matter, when buying products from now on. Intel and HP are leaders in this field and just recently Apple have resolved to investigate their supply chain for conflict-related atrocities.

GUAI started circulating a petition last year to David Newall, Secretary of Court, and Principal Anton Muscatelli, calling on them to make Glasgow conflict free. A motion has been passed through the SRC in support of the movement, however their power is limited and progress has been slow. To raise awareness of the campaign a video was filmed by members, with help from Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

A letter-writing action to Newall last semester has prompted another meeting to be planned with him and Jo Gallagher, Head of Procurement for the university. We are preparing for this opportunity to give the campaign the attention it deserves.

In March, in collaboration with the charity Earth Movies, we will be screening ‘Blood in the Mobile’. The documentary directed by Frank Piasecki Poulsen investigates the relation of mobile phone companies to the conflict in Congo. Following the screening will be a panel discussion, with speakers to be confirmed, plus a Q & A session. The joint publicity between GUAI and Earth Movies will reach out the event to a wide audience.

In February our members partook in the global #CongoPeace photo campaign. This social media campaign is designed to show our support for the women of Congo. The images will be collected and presented in a book to Special Envoys at a UN conference focussing on resource exploitation and sexual violence.

To give the Conflict Free Glasgow campaign a boost before the imminent meeting, we will be submitting informative articles to campus press such as the Glasgow Guardian newspaper.

Let’s make Glasgow a Conflict Free Campus!

http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/initiatives/conflict-minerals

Rob Hallam

BBC News – Gold market breaches ‘covered up’ (Newsnight Whistleblower Report)

A timely article given the latter part of today’s meeting on the front page of BBC News as part of a Newsnight report on conflict minerals failings in Dubai:

BBC News – Gold market breaches 'covered up'.

Dubai’s biggest gold refiner committed serious breaches of the rules designed to stop gold mined in conflict zones from entering the global supply chain, a whistleblower has revealed.

The article gives a good level of backgroun info as well as reporting on the Dubai situation. That someone had to resign and blow the whistle on the auditing practices goes to show quis custodiet ipsos custodes applies as much to the conflict mineral supply chain. There needs to be vigilance and pressure at all levels.

Rob Hallam

#CongoPeace (Photos)

Thanks to everyone who took part in the #CongoPeace photo petition this evening. For those that missed what it’s about, I’ll give you the explanation Georgia sent:

We have an exciting action planned for the whole of Feb. Its a social-media photo campaign with the hashtag #CongoPeace. It is aimed to culminate on the 6th of March with a special conference at the UN focusing on resource exploitation and sexual violence, where our photos will be handed to to Special Envoys Feingold and Robinson, U.N. Special Representative Zainab Bangura and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power in a special book. Pretty incredible opportunity!!

If you didn’t get a chance to take part but would like to, you can email us the images or tweet us them @guamnesty — remember to include #CongoPeace!

Edit: Special thanks to Katie who did as suggested above took the effort to send us in the photo she took herself!

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Ruth

Petition for a Conflict-Free Glasgow


CFGlasgow BannerWatch our campaign video on YouTube.

GU SRC Motion on Conflict Free Campus

Petition to: David Newall (Secretary of Court), Professor Anton Muscatelli (Principal)

Gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum are found in the electronic products we use every day, such as computers, mobile phones, and MP3 players. These minerals are now known as ‘conflict minerals’ because they are extracted from mines controlled by armed groups who use violence and mass rape to control local populations. These armed groups generate an estimated $144 million each year by trading in conflict minerals 1.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the countries worst affected by this illicit trade, with an estimated death toll of over six million2; and hundreds of thousands of women and children having been raped 3. Children are also forced into mines, undertaking heavy labour and 80% of the population lives on 30 cents or less per day 4. The sheer scale of this forced labour amounts to modern slavery.

This is a conflict that major electronics companies have known about for nearly two decades, yet little has been done to prevent the use of conflict minerals in our everyday technologies. While it is an inescapable reality that we are all going to keep using our mobiles and other essential consumer electronics, this should not be at the expense of fuelling the deadliest conflict in the world. Companies that use these minerals in their manufacturing processes must ensure that these minerals do not come with the cost of human lives.

Glasgow University Amnesty International has joined Raise Hope for Congo’s Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI), a global movement of students campaigning for peace and justice in the Congo. By encouraging university officials and stakeholders to commit to measures that pressure electronics’ companies to responsibly invest in Congo’s minerals sector, we are voicing the University of Glasgow’s collective demand for certified conflict-free products.

While we recognise that a more multifaceted and comprehensive plan of action is needed to solve the current crisis in Congo, ending the largely unrecognised illicit extraction and trade of conflict minerals will certainly remove a major economic incentive for numerous state and non-state sponsored militias. The direct link between war in Congo and the consumer products we use every day gives our University enormous power to demand change from electronics’ companies. By issuing a resolution supporting the conflict-free movement, the University of Glasgow would amplify and strengthen efforts calling for companies to trace, audit, and certify their supply chains to ensure their products do not support a minerals trade that is benefiting militia groups.

The University of Glasgow’s Sustainable Development Policy 5 states:

“The University of Glasgow recognises the significance of sustainable development in global, national and local contexts and acknowledges a commitment to the protection of the environment and the conservation of our natural resources.

“The University is concerned about the effects of its decisions and actions on the quality of life, the economy and world poverty, as well as the environment and natural resources.”

The University has agreed to adopt the following actions:

“To build partnerships and create local information networks for sharing experience and knowledge of sustainability, and to contribute to national and global discussions of sustainability issues”

We the undersigned call for the University of Glasgow to action the proposals set out in the SRC Motion for a Conflict-Free Campus, which are:

  • To call for the University to give priority to companies who implement due diligence when sourcing their minerals – tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold – from the Democratic Republic of Congo, when considering vendors for future electronic product purchases
  • To call for the University to express and foster a strong commitment to purchasing products that have been certified as ‘conflict-free’, upon considering the future procurement of electronic devices, once commercially available.
  • To call for the University to express a strong commitment to purchasing electronic products from companies that respect and promote human rights throughout the products’ lifecycle including the mineral extraction and trading phases.
  • To call for the University to issue formal letters of inquiry to contracted electronics suppliers on the status of company efforts to address mineral supply chain transparency and accountability.
  • Attempts to address these issues of transparency and accountability should pay heed to these guidelines, developed by the University of Pennsylvania Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, instructing companies to:
    1. Strengthen company management systems (including establishing and distributing a supply chain policy);
    2. Identify and assess risks in the supply chain;
    3. Design and implement a strategy to respond to identified risks;
    4. Ensure independent third-party audits of supply chain due diligence at identified points in the supply chain;
    5. Disclose publicly supply chain due diligence and findings.
  • If these approaches fail to bring change in a reasonable amount of time, the University should give purchasing preference to compliant companies as well as consider not renewing contracts and divesting from non-compliant ones.
  • To mandate the Students’ Association to do all of the above in their sourcing of electronics.

Petition for a Conflict-Free Glasgow

PETITION TO: DAVID NEWALL (SECRETARY OF COURT), PROFESSOR ANTON MUSCATELLI (PRINCIPAL)

We would like to see the University of Glasgow make the pledge to be ‘conflict-free’ as a step towards promoting peace in the Congo. This move would make the university the largest Conflict-Free University in the UK and a leader in the market for conflict-free products.

‘Conflict minerals’ - gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum - are found in the consumer electronics that we use every day, such as computers, mobile phones, and MP3 players. They originate in countries like Congo, where they are extracted from mines controlled by armed groups who use violence and mass rape to control local populations. It is estimated that over 6 million people have died since 1998, making this the deadliest conflict since World War II.

Glasgow University Amnesty International has joined the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, a global movement demanding that companies exercise due diligence and take responsibility for their supply chains by not sourcing minerals from Congo’s conflict-ridden mines.

We the undersigned request that:
The University of Glasgow actions the requests outlined in the SRC Motion for a Conflict-Free Campus thereby issuing a resolution supporting the conflict-free movement.

[signature]

120 signatures

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  1.  http://www.jww.org/conflictareas/congo/overview/conflict-minerals
  2. http://www.caritas.org/activities/emergencies/SixMillionDeadInCongoWar.html
  3. http://www.jewishworldwatch.org/conflictareas/congo/overview/women-under-siege
  4. http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/images/pdf/fact_sheet.pdf
  5. www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_142656_en.doc