The Dutch television programma Uitgesproken VARA tonight discusses blood mobiles. These are mobile phones produced with minerales from the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The violent conflict between the Congolese army and rebel groups continues to cause immense suffering for local people. At the same time tin, coltan, wolframite and gold extracted in the same geographical area, and helping to fuel the conflict, find their way into our mobile phones and computers. SOMO researcher Tim Steinweg explains about the problems and the possible solutions.

The contrasts in Congo, the third biggest African country, are big. Only two countries rank lower than Congo on the UN Human Development Index, the life expectancy is 46 and one in five children dies before the age of five. In contrast with the lack of basic needs for the majority of Congolese citizens, the country knows extraordinary mineral wealth. Copper, cobalt, tin, gold, diamonds are some of the riches in the Congolese soil. But instead of improving livelihoods, the raw materials are used by different armies and militias in the region to finance their operations.

For the makeITfair campaign SOMO is already doing for some years research into metals. In November 2007, makeITfair published reports on human rights and environmental risks related to the mining of cobalt, tin and platinum group metals in Africa and their usage in the consumer electronics such as mobile phones and computers.

In January 2008, makeITfair presented the reports to the companies at an international roundtable. In a follow-up to this roundtable, makeITfair developed its list of principles on the CSR issues in the extraction phase, in coordination with a number of NGOs. This list of principles was sent to all major electronic brand companies, with the request to issue a public response on how they would incorporate these recommendations into their CSR and business approach.

Recently makeITfair published the report ‘Voices from the inside’. The reports shows that numerous efforts and initiatives ranging from legislation to certification have focused on the link between the conflict and the trade in minerals from Eastern DRC. The makeITfair project, however, deplores the lack of communication with local stakeholders when formulating what should be done. The report presents local views on mining reform in Eastern DRC. Although civil society groups welcome policy makers who are trying to ‘clean up’ the mining business in Eastern DRC, they want to have a stronger voice in the debate and more input into the initiatives that are currently taking shape.

Uitgesproken VARA, 25 October at 20:25 uur on Nederland 2

Watch the programme (in Dutch):