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Bandi Mbubi: demand a fair trade cell phone

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I want to talk to you today about a difficult topic that is close to me and closer than you might realise, to you. I came to UK 21 years ago as an asylum seeker. I was 21. I was forced to leave the Democretic Republic of the Congo , my home, where I was a student activist. I would love my children to be able to meet my family in the Congo, but I want to tell you what the Congo has to do with you. But first of all I want you to do me a favour. Can you all please reach into your pockets and take out your mobile phones? Feel that familiar weight , how naturally your fingers slide towards the buttons. Can you imagine the world without it? It connects you to your loved ones, our family, friends and colleagues at home and overseas It's a symbol of an interconnected world, but what you hold in your hand leaves a bloody trail and it all goes down to a mineral: tantalum. Mined in the Congo as coltan. It's an anticorrosive heat conductor. It stores energy in our mobile phones, playstations and laptops. It is used in aerospace and medical equipment as alloys. It is so powerful that we only need tiny amounts. It would be great if this story ended there. Unfortunately what you hold in your hand has not only enabled incredible technological developments, and industrial expansion, but it has also contributed to inimaginable human suffering. Since 1996 over 5,ooo,ooo people have died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Countless women, men and children have been raped, tortured or slaved. Rape is used as a weapon of war instilling fear, and depopulating whole areas. The quest for extracting this mineral has not only aided but it has fueled the ongoing war in the Congo. But, don't throw away your mobiles yet. 30,000 children are enlisted and are made to fight in armed groups. The Congo consistently scores dreadfully in global health and powerty rankings. But, remarkably, the UN environmental programme has estimated the wealth of the country to be over 24 trillion dollars. The state-regulated mining industry has collapsed and control over mines has sprinted. Coltan is easily controlled by armed groups. One well-known illicit trade route is that across the border with Rwanda, where Congolese tantalum is disguised as Rwandan. But, don't throw away your mobiles yet. Because the incredible irony is that the technology that has placed such an unsustainable devastating demand on the Congo is the same technology that has brought the situation to our attention. We only know so much about the situation in the Congo and the mines because of the kind of communication the mobile phone allows. As with the Arab spring, during the recent elections in the Congo, voters were able to send text messages of local polling stations to the headquarters in the capital, Kinshasa. And in the week of the results, the diaspora has joined with the Carter Centre, the Catholic Church and other observers to draw attention to the undemocratic results . The mobile phone has given people around the world an important tool towards gainig political freedom. It has truly revolutionazed the way we communicate on the planet. It has allowed momentous political change to take place, so we are faced with the paradox: the mobile phone is an instrument of freedom and an instrument of opression. TED has always celebrated what technology can do for us. Technology in its finished form. It is time to be asking questions about technology: where does it come from? Who makes it? For what? Here I am speaking directly to you, the TED community and to all those who might be watching on the screen, on your phone, across the world, in the Congo. All the technology is implaced for us to communicate and all the technology is implaced to communicate this: At the moment there is not clear fair trade solution, but there has been huge amount of progress. The US has recently passed legislation to target robbery and misconduct in the Congo. Recent UK legislation could be used in the same way. In February Nokia unveiled its new policy on sourcing minerals in the Congo and there is a big petition to Apple to make a conflict-free IPhone. There were campaigns spreading across university campuses to make their colleges conflict-free, but we are not there yet. We need to continue mounting pressure on phone companies to change the sourcing processes. When I first came to the UK 21 years ago, I was homesick, I missed my family and the friends I left behind. Communication was extremely difficult. Sending and receiving letters took months if you were lucky, often they never arrived. Even if I could have afforded it the phone needs home. Like most people in the Congo, my parents didn't own a phone line. Today my two sons, David and Daniel can talk to my parents and get to know them. Why should we allow such a wonderful, brilliant and necessary product to be the cause of unnecessary suffering for human beings? We demand fair trade food and fair trade goods. It is time to demand fair trade phones. This is an idea worth spreading.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 21 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Views: 65
Posted by: lolaceituno on Jan 20, 2014

our mobile phone has a bloody past...

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