References – Conflict minerals.

The previous 4 posts are based on conflict minerals and The Congo, and below is a reference list with some links required – if this material is of interest to anybody. 

Blenkinsop, Philip (2016). EU agrees law to curb flow of conflict minerals. Reuters, .

BSR (May 2010). Conflict Minerals and the Democratic Republic of Congo: Responsible Action in Supply Chains, Government Engagement and Capacity Building.

Dranginis, Holly (2016). Point of Origin: Status Report on the Impact of Dodd-Frank 1502 in Congo. The Enough Project.

Enough Project Enough. [online]. http://www.enoughproject.org/.

Enough Project Progress and Challenges on Conflict Minerals: Facts on Dodd-Frank 1502. [online]. http://www.enoughproject.org/special-topics/progress-and-challenges-conflict-minerals-facts-dodd-frank-1502.

European Commission (2016). EU reaches landmark agreement on conflict minerals regulation. [online]. http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1587.

Kiggins, Ryan David (ed.) (2015). The Political Economy of Rare Earth Elements: Rising Powers and Technological Change. Palgrave Macmillan.

PARKER, Dominic P. and Vadheim, Bryan (2016). Resource Cursed or Policy Cursed? U.S. Regulation of Conflict Minerals and Violence in the Congo*. [online]. Journal of the association of environmental and resource economists, 4 (1), http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/689865.

Reading, Anna (2014). Seeing red:a political economy of digital memory. [online]. Media, culture & society, 36 (6), https://shuspace.shu.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-6762833-dt-content-rid-12887585_2/courses/55-6703-00S-A-20167/seeingred.pdf.

Seay, Laura E. (2012). What’s Wrong with DoddFrank 1502?: Conflict Minerals, Civilian Livelihoods, and the Unintended Consequences of Western Advocacy. [online]. Center for global development working paper no.284., https://ssrn.com/abstract=2009350 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2009350.

Usanov, Artur, et al. (2013). Coltan, Congo and Conflict. The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. (210513).

WOLFE, Lauren (2015). How Dodd-Frank is failing Congo. [online]. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/02/how-dodd-frank-is-failing-congo-mining-conflict-minerals/

Conflict Minerals – What Needs To Happen

Dodd Frank was the first major step in the fight against conflict minerals. On reflection, the DRC needs more than just regulation. Dodd Frank, along with the recently announced EU conflict minerals regulation, offer just that. Dodd Frank and the EU offer the DRC little in terms of actual direct support in the Congo, and without this, conflict will find a way to enter people’s lives. Governments, trade regulators, businesses, and the public need to truly realise the extent of the conflict in the Congo, and realise it is not an easy fix; simply saying it will be regulated is not working.

Seay (2012) gives recommendations, originally for Dodd Frank, but which can be applied again to the new EU announcement. Seay (2012) recommends that immediate assistance should be given to mining communities who have lost their jobs due to the turmoil in the Congolese mining trade. Education, healthcare, living and job help will go a long way for these people, and short term assistance can put them back on track to reduce the likelihood of out-of-work miners turning to illegal smuggling through Rwanda. The EU should take this into account, and openly discuss all the possibilities into making this happen. Big European businesses and the EU commission should work together to help make support in the Congo effective, affordable, and worthwhile. In the long run, it will benefit everyone; those in the Congo would have a sustainable economic livelihood again, and big businesses would live up to their corporate responsibility- pleasing western consumers.

The regulation of conflict minerals, and the auditing and tracing supply chains does not have to be a process which results in Congolese miners being out of work. Western regulators and governments need to work in collaboration with the DRC, directly, in Congo. Therefore, the traceability of minerals can open a wealth of new job creation for the Congolese. (Seay, 2012) Doing this would ensure that the DRC artisanal miners do not lose their income, they would have a legitimate one; whilst also contributing to the end of conflict minerals.

The focus in the western world currently is on advancement of technology. We are advancing at a pace which is unprecedented. However, the very start of this technology – the root, the core, the fundamentals that make it work – are corrupt and systematically failing people. Furthermore, western efforts to regulate the trade are still failing the workers in the DRC.  In a world where advancement is so fast, so many things are possible, and so many great minds can work together, the minerals and regulations of those which make up our tech should not be causing any harm.

The way for this to happen is for communication to happen. People need to talk about this. Too many don’t even realise what is in their iPhones, their androids, their smartwatches. Technology has become invisible, and we are blind to what makes our lives so well connected. However, if discussion, teaching, learning, and spreading of these ideas takes place, then things could change. Ideas will be developed to provide a fair and just system for everyone, especially those in the DRC. Fair trade technology can happen- and should happen.

Conflict Minerals – EU pass legislation

Conflict Minerals – EU pass legislation

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In recent years conflict mineral discussion has been on the increase, and with the controversial Dodd Frank Act often debated, the European Union have had a lot of negotiations regarding regulations and trade rules.

On the 22nd November 2016, the EU reached an agreement on an EU regulation on the issue of conflict minerals, aiming to  “stop the financing of armed groups”.  in developing nations through 3TG minerals trade. The regulation is said to be enough to ensure the majority of 3TG minerals are traded responsibly and the supply chain is tracked properly.

“EU importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold and their ores will from 2021 have to carry out checks on their suppliers in legislation that will also apply to smelters and refiners”

This is a great step for the EU in regards to conflict minerals. However, it is half-hearted. The EU regulation focuses on raw materials, not finished products. Therefore, companies who do not hold product manufacturing factories within the EU can import conflict minerals, if they are already a component of a finished product. The amount of 3TG minerals in finished products coming to the EU will be unknown, and is a loophole in which conflict minerals can still be used in technology products. The EU Commission will, in their words, “press big manufacturers to disclose details of products that might contain conflict minerals.”(EU Commission)

‘Pressing’ big manufacturers is not necessarily going to get results. Unless due diligence of a products full supply chain is in regulation law, companies are not required by EU law to report conflict minerals in finished products. Activists and campaigners believe this is necessary to stop conflict minerals reaching the EU at all, and to encourage companies to support legal, fair trade mining – resulting in no conflict minerals. Just fair traded minerals.

The EU regulation also exempts smaller importers, such as jewellers and dentists, so that their businesses are not restrained by the high due diligence costs involved with this new regulation. This has been criticised for opening a loophole to possible trade of conflict minerals through small importers. Nele Meyer from Amnesty International said…

“These volume thresholds that exempt companies from complying with legislation are dangerous loopholes. They could let minerals worth millions of euros enter the EU free of any scrutiny,”

It is noticeable that the EU are not pushing companies or government to help aid direct projects in the DRC, the recent regulation is solely focused on due diligence, and not helping fund or support sustainable mining in the DRC. In fact, the regulation is focused on due diligence of all 3TG minerals entering the EU, from all countries, therefore any direct projects in the DRC being aided by this regulation is unlikely.

There is no denying the EU regulation is a step in the right direction. Strict laws, regulations and governmental discussions are needed. Therefore, the EU is doing a good thing. However, not enough. The DRC need more than EU regulation and due diligence. To truly stop conflict due to minerals in the DRC, the EU need to provide regulation, laws, and support to the DRC and help sustain projects on the ground with locals and Congolese officials. Without so, loopholes will be exploited and Congolese armed groups and corruption will continue to find a way to exploit people in the DRC.

Conflict Minerals – Dodd Frank

Conflict Minerals – Dodd Frank

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When it comes to conflict minerals and the need for rules and regulations, the most widely known and controversial regulation is Dodd Frank. This is currently the biggest regulation to discuss, when considering what is being done about conflict minerals right now.

In 2010, The United States passed legislation called the Dodd-Frank Act. Sections 1502/1504 of Dodd-Frank aimed to cut funding to Congolese warlords by discouraging electronics manufacturers from sourcing 3TG minerals from the region. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016)  Dodd Frank meant that publicly traded companies registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to trace and report the origin of minerals, whether they are receiving 3TG resources from the DRC (or adjoining countries), and if those minerals are connected to conflict in the region. May 2014 saw companies file their first disclosures. Dodd Frank did not outright ban the purchasing of DRC conflict minerals, it only made it necessary to report supply chains.  However, the simplest way for companies to appear conflict free was to in fact stop purchasing from the DRC. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016)

Dodd Frank, according to advocates, was going to be the beginning of the end of the conflict in the Congo. One of these advocates was The Enough Project.

The Enough Project  is a large non-profit organisation, and campaigns for a conflict- free DRC. Their 2015/2016 status report/field research in the eastern DRC found that there had been positive advances in The Congo. For example, increased security in mining areas for civilians, significant reductions in armed groups’ control, improved health and safety standards for miners, and implementation of a DRC run system assessing mines and minerals.   (The enough project 2016 status report). It is important to note that The Enough Project were the main campaigners who promoted the need for conflict mineral legislation. Therefore, the legitimacy behind their findings are questionable, they will want their campaign to look successful.

However, Dodd Frank has not necessarily solved issues within the DRC, as shown by a Fault Lines investigation published in 2016.

Mineral fraud and smuggling is still taking place in the DRC and surrounding countries, such as the selling of electronic tracing tags to illegal sellers, which are supposed to be used to regulate the transport of conflict-free minerals. This is due to corruption at both the local and governmental level. This reflects one of the major issues with the Dodd Frank sections 1502/1504, that “ultimately, the solution to Congo’s problems will not come from the private sector.” The private sector (companies) can move their business elsewhere, or even begin to track their supply chain better, but this is not solving issues within the Congolese mining industry. If the Congolese workers and governments doing the tracking of minerals are corrupt, then conflict minerals will continue to be circulated.

Section 1502’s has had a horrific effect on Congolese miners working life. Congolese miners normally work under terrible conditions for little pay and few/no working rights, however, it is often the only opportunity for paid employment. There are rarely any alternatives. (Seay, 2012) Section 1502 has inadvertently put mining communities out of work, due to the expense and regulations of tracing supply chains, and mine sites being shut down due to not meeting standards. On the one hand, it is a good thing people are not suffering in these conditions. However, many have no employment at all now, or have turned to smuggling.

“As the 2011 Final Report of the UN Group of Experts on Congo notes, the de facto ban has led to an increase in conflict mineral smuggling via Rwanda” (Seay, 2012)

Seay (2012) also notes that Congolese armed groups continue to target local communities for food, money, and alternate resources such as timber. Dodd Frank may have reduced the number of conflict mineral sites, and may have reduced the (reported) number of conflict minerals being transported, but it has not solved the issue of conflict minerals in the DRC completely.

Dodd Frank was seen as a big move at the time. So yes, Dodd Frank isn’t all bad, regulation is great, but Dodd Frank is flawed. That it seen in the consequences described above, and therefore it is clear that regulation needs to be reconsidered and rewritten when it is not working; to develop and increase its positive impact.

Manhart and Schleicher (2013) wrote recommendations to the powers in Europe, showing how more is needed than just regulation.

“European industry and businesses should take a proactive role by supporting, developing and expanding responsible sourcing projects in the eastern DR Congo. Apart from direct support for on-the-ground projects, commitments to purchase a defined quantity of conflict free material from the DR Congo should also be explored. These activities should be bundled into a Congo stewardship initiative, which – presupposing an ambitious character and measurable targets – should be substantially supported by the European Union.”

The lesson that needs to be learnt from Dodd Frank is that regulation is not enough. The Congo need support also. On the ground; to help eradicate corruption on a large level. This needs to be considered by regulators around the world.

Conflict Minerals and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Conflict Minerals and the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Living in an era of rapid technological change and advancement, we are using an increasing number of components to produce our technology. (Kiggins, 2015) The resources which make up these components must be “taken from the earth with machines and human labour to then be processed, graded, sorted and recombined to become the micro-chips, the computer screens, the mobile devices” (Reading, 2014) which we all use.  Some of these resources are referred to as conflict minerals; natural resources which are extracted in conflict zones/countries suffering conditions of conflict. The four most discussed conflict minerals are gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten (and their corresponding ores). (Enough Project). These are often referred to as 3TG.

A region which is often discussed when looking at conflict minerals is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has suffered mass conflict mineral atrocities due to the western consumer demand for more technology. (Usanov, et al. 2013) The DRC is said to have $24 trillion mineral deposits, therefore is the largest sufferer of conflict due to mineral extraction. It is important to note that conflict in the DRC is not solely a result of conflict minerals, it is due to political differences, ethnic differences, and agricultural land. However, minerals are a large contributor to the problem and increase the severity of the conflict, due to all profits being used to fund violence.

The Eastern DRC has rich deposits of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.  The mining of these minerals in the DRC have helped funding of the ongoing conflict in the Congo. This is done in two ways. Rebel groups, local militias, or units of the Congolese army may directly control mines, guarding them using weapons, and charging tax on anyone entering. Or, the same groups may illegally tax the transport (and often smuggling) and trading of minerals along certain routes. (BSR, May 2010) It has been widely noted that revenue from mineral sales go to warlords, leaders of militia groups, and the Congolese army, who control mining areas and have been known to commit brutal acts of violence, including rape as a form of weapon. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016) The mining of Tantalum for example, has aided and fuelled violence in the DRC. (TED TALK). The profits from the mining and smuggling of Tantalum, and other conflict minerals, are used to purchase weapons by rebels and militia groups.

It is high western demand for electrical goods which demands the large number of rare minerals like those in the DRC. Minerals are a very small part of electrical goods, but a vital one. The supply chain of these minerals is not always traced effectively, and pressure is continuously put on technology companies to demand fair regulation regarding mining and trade on these minerals. There have been developments in regards to regulation and fair trade of said minerals, and there is plans for more. Therefore, it is necessary to critically look at what is being done, and what needs to be done in the future.

Prototype Project Reflective Report

shuhublogo

SHUHUB Team – Josh McBride, Sophie Williams,

                                Ire Akinfisoye, Simon Harvican

This report will reflect on a prototype development project. As a team, we mutually agreed to develop a prototype app for Sheffield Hallam University. (SHU) The initial team discussions took place during seminar time, and were focused on discussion of the general problems with the current SHUgo app. As Students of SHU, we all had an opinion on the functionality and usefulness of the app, and immediately identified problem areas which needed to be solved in the development of SHUHUB. Following this, we agreed to meet each week to discuss progress and development of the project.

Following the identification of key development goals (design and no reliance on Blackboard), roles were delegated to each team member; based on what we needed to accomplish for the pitch presentation. These included: Introduction (SHUgo and the need for SHUHUB), Design & Development, Creation & Cost, and Market Research. SHUgo and the need for SHUHUB were delegated to Sophie, Design & Development to Ire with help from all, Creation & Cost to Simon, and Market Research to myself. Following role delegation, research and working on the project was done individually, using suitable programs to stay up to date on progress. For example, Facebook group chat, and Google Slides/Docs due to its live update/saving functionality. This made the logistics of working individually easier due to us being able to see what all team members were doing.

The delegated roles were fulfilled successfully, and accurately delegated due to our strengths and interests. However, we did not restrict ourselves to sections, and worked cooperatively during times of difficulty, and towards the end when compiling all the research and designs. For example, we all distributed the Survey which Sophie created, to get a greater number of respondents. This method of working individually but cooperatively also, while communicating throughout, was very successful. Often group projects can be logistically difficult due to poor communication, and our methods prevented this.

The result of our team project was a well-researched, well presented, thorough prototype. We collected a great amount of informative information and research, through our hard work both individually and cooperatively. On reflection, the project has been a learning and development process. Skills and knowledge of app development have been increased, and our confidence and creativity also. Personally, my confidence has increased the most, as I believe we went into the pitch feeling confident that our prototype project had been successful.

The project has helped us all develop as strong collaborative workers, and given us knowledge and insights which are valuable for both Media Technologies and wider society. For example, due to market research and user satisfaction research, we now recognise the significance of having users involved with the development process of an app. The cooperative, inclusive approach to development and management of SHUHUB which we suggested, can be promoted to more than just apps. Cooperative working and collaboration between creator/user would benefit more than just SHU. If the wider society took this approach, then it would result in more shared, successful developments of ideas – turning them into realities.

SHUGO

SHUgo (PlaystoreAppstore) is a mobile app (iPhone/android) designed for Sheffield Hallam University (SHU – UK) students to aid their university education and experience. The app allows students to have access to their emails, Blackboard (module/assignment materials, or top up their SHUcard (student card payment for cafes or printing). SHU students have mixed opinions on the app; however the feedback we gathered via market research (SurveyMonkey questionnaire, full results in pitch) suggested that improvements could be made. In particular, that the design was out of date (as images show), and functionality was seen as problematic.

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The User experience (survey responses) of SHUgo was our main reasoning behind the development of SHUHUB- a virtual hub for SHU students.

Development of SHUHUBshuhublogo

To develop the prototype app, we used prototype creation software called Justinmind. Using Justinmind made the app development process a lot smoother and simplistic, as we have little programming expertise. We concluded that there were some main issues with SHUgo which needed to be solved by SHUHUB. For example, the design needed to be more friendly and modern. For example, the colour scheme needed to reflect the users – SHU students. (Ginsburg, 2010)

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Secondly, and arguably most importantly, the reliance on Blackboard (external module information app) needed to be solved. Therefore, we developed a prototype which would incorporate a student’s module information within the app itself. We felt less redirections were needed, and therefore tried to incorporate as much into the prototype as we could; without the need for redirections. The USP of SHUHUB is undeniably the design changes, and the removal of Blackboard from the app. This is demonstrated in the presentation design slides of the pitch.

After development of the app, marketing of SHUHUB was considered. Due to the target audience, the best marketing techniques to use are those in which SHU use. (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, E-mail updates, Shuspace, and flyers/posters). Using SHU resources to promote SHUHUB keeps the tone and brand of SHUHUB relevant. (David and Murman, 2014)

Place in the Media World

Recognition of SHUHUB’s place in the media world was needed, and to do this we used McLuhan’s Tetrad of media effects (McLuhan, 1992)

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For example, SHUHUB enhances and augments skills of productivity – including organisation, time management, and navigation. SHUHUB retrieves planning and organisation assistance, like that of a PDA or diary; as well as retrieving the navigational assistance of a map. SHUHUB makes Blackboard obsolete from the app. However, when flipped, SHUHUB can be said to be electronic waste; is it really necessary. As seen from the Tetrad, SHUHUB fits well into the technological media world. SHUHUB successfully does all things any media should do, as said by McLuhan.

Funding

SHUHUB development and maintenance would require resources and funding. However, the University has access to many resources. For example, SHUHUB development, maintenance, and marketing would be conducted on a voluntary basis by students and staff wanting to contribute to the university, and to gain experience. Office space is also provided to SHU students/projects for free (The hatchery).  Although, some costs are inevitable.  The Apple Developer Enterprise Program and Adobe Creative Cloud annual memberships add up to £789.62.

The Development of SHUHUB meets the needs of the users – SHUgo currently does not. SHUHUB is an app which, if developed, matches the brand of the University much better than SHUgo, through its student involvement. The prototype developed is an insight into what a SHU app could be, and should be.

SHUHUB FULL PITCH PRESENTATION

Josh McBride

Josh McBride

An honest, hardworking and diligent Level 6 media undergraduate.

Hoping to work in a role delivering high quality experiences, services, and products to the public. A team player, shown by previous work experience, but also strong minded and independent due to an enthusiastic work ethic and an academic upbringing. A dedicated hard worker, I strive to produce and deliver high quality work in any role. A firm believer that excellent communication and organisation are vital to succeed, I use these skills throughout work, academic, and personal life.

Outside of work/university, I enjoy travelling. My most recent trips being to Greece, Berlin, and South-East Asia. I believe travel opens up opportunities and gives experiences which are unforgettable and give lifelong lessons.

Other interests

  • Political activism
  • The works of Salvador Dali
  • Rock, house, and techno music
  • Social Media-as a means of communication and globalisation
  • Philosophy – Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx