Campaign of the Month: No Blood in my Cell Phone
Warring groups compete for rich resources. This includes gold, diamonds, copper, uranium, and perhaps most significantly, coltan. The DRC has 65 percent of the world’s coltan deposits. This mineral is valuable for production of electronic devices from cell phones to video game consoles.
The way coltan reaches the market is very unsettling. The military, local militias and rebels are all involved in smuggling. Illicit profits fund these violent groups. Ironically, as a UN Panel of Experts pointed out, the conflict sometimes unites the warring parties by making them business partners. They use the same weapons dealers and middlemen.
These middlemen buy directly from the smugglers and sell to major corporations. Thus, few profits benefit the DRC. In fact, the Congolese suffer greatly from the illegal digging. Unregulated mining damages the environment. Mine operators push people from resource rich areas. There are also reports of slave labor.
In reaction, there is a "No blood on my cell phone!" campaign. Cell phone companies allegedly facilitate the exploitation, so people are urged not to buy cell phones made with coltan. The campaign has not stopped the mining yet, but it has increased global awareness of the issue. Now, the DRC government and foreign governments need to intervene.
The Belgian air company Sabena is one of the means of transporting the mineral from Kigali (capital city of Rwanda) to Brussels, and associated to American Airlines, announced the suspension of the service, under strong pressure from the world campaign “No blood on my cell phone!” (or: “Pas de sang sur mon GSM”), exhorting people not to buy cell phones containing Coltan due to its repercussion on the prolongation of the civil war in the Congo. As a result of this campaign, the Belgian research institute International Peace Information Service (IPIS) produced a document in January 2002 “Supporting the War Economy in the DRC: European Companies and the Coltan Trade,” which documents the leading role played by the companies in promoting the war through their cooperation with the military and exhorting that the international consideration of the Coltan trade be given priority over its local aspects.
The campaign is still working in lobbying and researching, but not so much with a public awareness campaign.
The NGOs involved in this campaign are: