If you take a minute out of your life to watch the film clip below, you'll know why this website has come online. When ignorance is no longer a protection from the evils of the world, you have to decide what to do: something or nothing. If nothing, we must accept that we are complicit with the abuses going on in the world. No individual can fight every battle. It's wearying and overwhelming. This is a battle we can fight by paying a bit extra for our smartphones.
Who is behind this website, and why has it come online?
I watched Aex Crawford's Sky News report on child cobalt miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report was effective: the image of a small boy, a child miner, looking nervously into the camera lens; exhausted, ill and depressed, was profoundly distressing to witness. That night, my mum and I made an internet donation to UNICEF. It didn't assuage my distress or seem adequate. Child labour in Congolese mines is not a new problem. Despite Amnesty International probing corporates for evidence of fairer and better practice, these children continue to labour in dangerous and health damaging conditions. Corporate spokespeople utter platitudes which sound reassuring but are, in fact, meaningless to children toiling at 12 hour shifts and going hungry.
Mark Dummett, business and human rights researcher at Amnesty said that mining was "one of the worst forms of child labour... Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products... Companies whose global profits total $125bn (£86.7bn) cannot credibly claim that they are unable to check where key minerals in their productions come from."
Cobalt - it's valuable. It should be mined safely and paid for fairly
Corporations need cobalt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has it. The country is in turmoil. There is abject poverty. DC Congo is, however, resource-rich in cobalt, tin and gold. At the very least, corporates can pay fairly for Congolese resources and, in the spirit of humanity, encourage and support safe working practice and end the exploitation of children. Exploiting vulnerable and desperate people is not okay. It is inhumane and share holders should be ashamed if their priorities are profit above the suffering of children and adult workers.
How could corporates effect change in Congolese artisanal mines?
1. Cobalt should be mined and valued to Fair Trade practice. 2. Companies can add value to goods by aligning them with fair trade and ethical practice, giving consumers the choice to pay more at the point of sale in the form of a donation, or by purchasing something extra (a lapel pin, a badge, a case marked #conflictminerals #DRCongo; there are endless possibilities). Consumers could also be given the opportunity to purchase goods branded for the purpose of raising funds for Congolese welfare. Such funds could be directed to on-the-ground field workers and established projects and charities.
That's not much to ask. We're not asking corporates to pay out of their own pocket - just organise sustained collections of money from ethical consumers. There are a lot of us.
Change is needed, and it needs to happen fast
These children are suffering. Anyone mining cobalt without protective clothes and proper equipment is damaging their health. It is not acceptable. Child labour is not acceptable.
I will diarise, on this website, and through Twitter and Facebook, who I write to, and what their response is. My efforts need to be supported by you. Retweet. Like. Follow. If I post a poll, take a minute to vote.
Don't be apathetic. Apathy means we are condoning abuse. As consumers, we have power and we should use it to the good
On Twitter, Councillor John Edwards expressed distress following the #Dorsen report. "Bloody hell. Bloody hell... Third world problems are people problems. Every last one of us needs to stop distancing ourselves." We have to insist on change and make it happen. As consumers, we have power.