The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative held a kickoff event Friday to welcome students to help make a difference against the ongoing mineral-trade conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
 

The event, held at Memorial Union, was meant to promote conflict-free technology on campus, specifically in regards to the trade of conflict minerals funding armed groups in the Congo.

University of Wisconsin senior Katy Johnson, who brought the CFCI movement to UW and is also president of UW’s chapter of Amnesty International, addressed the room along with UW alumnus and Enough Project Campaign Manager JD Stier about passing a resolution to be a conflict-free campus.

“We’re here to support students like Katy in drafting her own resolution in the grassroots at the campus level, from Congo, to D.C., to here at Madison,” Stier said.

By partnering with Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, The EDGE Project, Amnesty International, Students Against Trafficking and the African Students Association, Johnson aims to gain a strong student movement on campus to demand conflict-free electronics here at UW.

“The colleges are the answer,” Johnson said. “The University of Wisconsin can do so much. If we decide, then technology companies have no choice but to be conflict-free.”

As consumers of electronic products using these “conflict minerals,” UW students have significant purchasing power to pressure electronics companies into creating conflict-free products and responsibly sourcing minerals from the Congo, according to a CFCI statement.

According to the CFCI website, over 70 colleges and universities have joined in the movement, eight of which have passed a resolution.

Johnson said she discovered the devastation in the Congo after an internship with the Enough Project in Washington, D.C. last summer and felt the need for UW to be the first Big Ten school to pass a conflict-free resolution.

UW senior and neurobiology major Stephanie Lakritz came to the kickoff event to support Johnson’s project, adding that having Stier as a guest also demonstrated its importance.

Johnson said the process of passing a resolution includes recognizing as a campus the violence in the Congo and making a statement to being free of conflict minerals in our technology and urging companies to produce conflict-free products.

“We have an incredible opportunity,” Johnson said.

The combination of UW’s strong research programs and by being the first Big Ten school to pass a resolution will make a “huge impact” on the movement by reaching out to many technology and electronic companies, Johnson added.

Along with the movement, CFCI event also emphasized Congolese culture by concluding the meeting with attendees learning different Congolese dances while listening to themed music.

Throughout the school year, CFCI will hold events on campus such as lectures from professors with expertise on the Congo, documentary viewing parties, petitions and protests at Library Mall and on Bascom Hill.

Additional information on the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative and Raise Hope for Congo can be found on http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/conflict-free-campus-initiative.