Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 | Original article
Editor's Note: Student leader Bennett Collins spearheaded the St Andrews University chapter of Raise Hope for Congo's Conflict-Free Campus Initiative. In this guest post he reflects on the past year of action.
As 2012 comes to a close, it is difficult to believe that one year ago, the conflict-free movement had yet to make its debut in the United Kingdom, let alone Europe. When I started the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative at the University of St Andrews in December 2011, I never thought that the Coalition for a Conflict-free St Andrews would mobilize Great Britain’s first university to be the first to pass a conflict-free resolution. Since then, the conflict-free movement has reached the cities of Exeter, Glasgow, and London, and now, a year later, we have gained enough momentum to start a petition calling on European Parliament to pass conflict mineral legislation.
As said perfectly by Congolese activist Bandi Mbubi, the founder of Congo Calling and someone who has helped to launch the Conflict-free Campus Initiative in the U.K: The conflict-free movement in Great Britain “all came together at just the right time.” Simply put, the student movement owes its success to support from Congolese diaspora organizations, non-profit organizations, and the passionate activism of students.
This October, students from Conflict-Free Exeter raised the bar for the student movement here by planning and executing the most successful campaign launch yet, whereby hundreds of attendees were able to buy ‘conflict-free’ merchandise, participate in a photo petition, and listen to the inspiring words of Bandi Mbubi. In November, student leaders at the University of Glasgow participating in the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative were successful in lodging a motion in Scottish Parliament that endorsed the conflict-free movement as well as the efforts of the student group. Meanwhile, students at University College London, Warwick University, London Metropolitan University, and several other institutions are in the midst of preparing their own conflict-free campaigns.
To coincide with the first birthday of the Coalition for a Conflict-Free St Andrews, we worked with Change.org to create a petition to help catalyze the movement within the U.K. so that it reaches the ears of policymakers, and to push the conflict-free movement across the channel and into mainland Europe. Our petition includes this video:
The European Union and its member states are moving at an astonishingly slow pace to propose adequate conflict mineral legislation that would mirror legislation passed in the U.S. As this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the European Union has a duty now more than ever to ensure human rights, democratic values, and fair economic practices are upheld and utilized both in and outside its borders. Until European Parliament recognizes the continued proliferation of conflict minerals within the E.U. as being a legitimate threat to its values, reputation, and relations with resource-rich countries, and begins to pass legislation addressing this threat, the conflict-free movement in Great Britain will not cease its efforts to educate and advocate for a conflict-free E.U.
Collins is a fourth year at the University of St Andrews in Scotland studying international relations and a student leader in the Coalition for a Conflict-free St Andrews.