game console

What are conflict resources?

Most have probably heard of or seen the movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This movie is about conflict resources, specifically diamonds. The movie traces the path of a man who is embroiled in conflict, forced to be a diamond mining slave and his struggle to find his kidnapped son. Conflict resources, however, extend far beyond just diamonds. They include tin, copper, cobalt, coltan, gold, all the vast mined metals and minerals, and even things like timber. The profits from these resources funds violence. Essentially warlords or brutal armies or corrupt governments overtake mines or resources and begin to sell them on the world market and use this money to fund their violence; buying weapons and power for themselves. The extraction process of the raw materials could have also involved violence, including slave labor, inhumane conditions, massive abuse, intimidation and murder.

One of the best definitions I’ve seen for conflict resources is this one:

“Conflict resources are natural resources whose systematic exploitation and trade in a context of conflict contribute to, benefit from or result in the commission of serious violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law.”

Can you imagine handing a brutal warlord with a massive continual supply of money to buy weapons and power? This is what is happening. We continue and continue to supply and support warlords and then spend great amount of money and effort trying to stop them from warring. We continue to buy products that have supported war, unaware; and wonder what incentive these people could possibly have to war and kill each other. I’d say millions of dollars a month is quite an incentive for many…

The complicated nature of the metals market allows for this to continue. “The metals market can be understood by analogy to a pool of water that is being fed by many streams. Numerous sources, including primary and recycled metal producers, supply the metals market, which is a global commodity pool that circulates and mixes freely. At the same time, numerous buyers withdraw from the pool, often not distinguishing source other than on price. Within the metal pool, metal is metal, where one unit of atoms is substitutable for another.” Something needs to change in the way metals and raw materials are traded and extracted.

Why is this happening? Profit is not enough of a reason, especially with many companies claiming “ethical” business practices. There is nothing ethical about supporting murder, rape, abuse and massive violence. The system is so complicated that most companies no longer have control over their own products. They have no idea what is going into their products and where the raw materials all actually come from. This is unacceptable and the longer we ignore it, the more people will die.

Everyone became aware of conflict diamonds and the Kimberly process was created to try and stop conflict diamonds from getting into the market, but they forgot (or never knew about) the other resources that are creating just as much, or even more violence. There are ways to stop this type of violence, but there needs to be more than voluntary regulations that are not even enforced or are beyond the scope of national legalities.

Please read up on the issue (I write frequently about this topic here), and write a letter/email to the following people (and any more you come across) urging them to stop the violence. You can also post complaints on any company you feel are falsely advertising “ethical business practices” here. A sample letter follows. If you would like more suggestions or need more information, please feel free to contact me at apeaceofconflict.gmail.com.

Some computer companies:

Hewlett Packard dfisher@hp.com

Acer Canada-Sales@acer.com

Toshiba Sherry.Lyons@toshiba.ca

Dell: try writing their corporate office at:
Dell Canada
155 Gordon Baker Rd., Suite 501
North York, Ontario M2H 3N5

Apple: try writing their corporate office at:
Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino California 95014

Government officials:

The Prime Minister – pm@pm.gc.ca

The Foreign Affairs Minister- cannon.L@parl.gc.ca

The Leader of the Opposition- Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca

Other party leaders in Parliament- Layton.J@parl.gc.ca; duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca

And find your MPP here.

Sample letter to computer companies:

Dear________.

I am writing to express my concern over the use of conflict resources in your product line. Many of the raw materials used to manufacture your products could have supported violence. Most metals are said to pass through a minimum of 10 hands before ever reaching the manufacturing stage, making the origins very difficult to trace. Many of these metals have been mined in war zones, some even by slave labour, and are helping to fuel conflict and massive violence in these regions. The current state of the metal industry leaves the source of each metal rather ambiguous. This is unacceptable practice that must stop.

Your company’s current efforts are not enough to stop the violence. Conflict resources are still getting through and into your product line. Voluntary cooperation to minimum standards is not enough. Something more serious must be done.

I urge you to take a stand against the violence and create structures to stop it. I urge you to have an ethical business practice that actually means something. I do not want to buy a product that has contributed to violence.

Yours sincerely,