6 March 2014

International Women’s Day: Elevating the Conversation on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict

To commemorate International Women’s Day, on 6 March 2014 the United Nations Academic Impact co-hosted with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Enough Project, a special event at UN Headquarters to focus on raising awareness about the role of “conflict minerals” and their link to sexual violence.

Entitled “International Women’s Day: Elevating the Conversation on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict,” the discussion covered the ways in which women experience conflict, the role of women in Congo’s peace process, and efforts to combat the conflict minerals trade, and urgent actions needed to end and prevent sexual violence.

While many people are familiar with the issue of Conflict Diamonds or Blood Diamonds through films or books, the term conflict minerals might be unfamiliar to many. Conflict minerals refer to raw materials from a particular part of the world where conflict is occurring, affecting the mining and trade of those materials. Among the ongoing conflict regions, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been torn by internal conflicts for more than a century. And one of the leading factors contributing to this continuing conflict is profits from the mineral trade. Those conflict minerals include gold and 3Ts-tin, tantalum, and tungsten - which are found in abundance in eastern part of Congo.

Conflict minerals are essential components of electronic devices such as cell phones and computers, thus these minerals are in huge demand on the global market. Money earned through the mineral trade allows the militias to purchase great amount of weapons and to continue violence and abuse against civilians. The worst abuses often occur in mining areas.  Armed groups also use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to control mines, trading routes, and other strategic areas.

Among the panelists Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), who covered multiple conflict areas, explained how electronic industry can play a leading role to fight against conflict and sexual violence in Congo. After recognizing the connection between electronic products and mining in Congo, electronic companies could start to collaborate on taking positive action. “Conflict Free Smelter” program, which determines the origin of the raw materials used by a smelter and their connection with the DRC conflict, is one of the positive achievements they have made.

Robin Wright, an American actress, stressed that every person who owns cellphone should feel moral obligation to people suffering from the DPR conflict since we are fueling the war in some way by purchasing products made of conflict minerals. She also urged students and educational institutions to get involved in the fight to end rape and sexual violence against women in Congo. She particularly highlighted the role of students saying “students’ voice is so critical, so powerful in how they can spread awareness.”

Through Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, students can add their names to the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI) and help make their schools a leading human rights institution.  CFCI is a part of the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign. Since its inception, over 150 schools have participated in CFCI, with 17 campuses passing resolutions that amend their schools’ policies to take the issue of Congo conflict minerals under consideration when making purchasing decisions.

Please visit the webcast to view the conversation.
For additional information on “International Women’s Day: Elevating the Conversation on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict,” the Enough Project site.