Titled “Moving Forward in the Eastern Congo: Roles to be Played by the International Community”, St Andrews’ latest conference will be hosted by the Coalition for a Conflict-Free St Andrews.

The Coalition is a group of 15 student societies that have come together to “raise awareness of and advocate for the end of the elicit extraction and trade” of the aptly named conflict minerals. These minerals are vital in making the electronics that we take for granted in everyday life and include tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold.

The original aim of the Coalition was to work with the University to adopt a more sustainable and fair policy on the use and procurement of these minerals. Having been successful at this, the Coalition now exists to raise awareness and spread word of the Conflict-Free Campus movement throughout similar European institutions.

One example of how prominent this issue of loose regulation in the trade of these minerals is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Already in the grip of a “complex crisis”, the minerals are mined and traded by armed groups, worsening the situation. The group therefore aims to “promote the use of Conflict-Free minerals in manufacturing processes, while attempting to ensure that products from the Democratic Republic of Congo do not become contraband.”

As this is very much an international problem, the title of the Conference is very fitting. With such a global aspect in mind, the Coalition have invited expert speakers from around the world to share their views. These include world renowned French Africanist, Dr Gerard Prunier, and Professor Koen Vlassenroot from Belgium (who is perfectly placed, as he will be advising the UN Envoy to the Eastern Congo). Author Kevin Dunn will also be coming from the US, whilst Sophia Pickles will be representing Global Witness. Other guests include actress and activist Shana Mongwanga, former attorney for the Congolese Supreme Court Marie-Therese Nlandu and award winning film maker Fiona Lloyd Davies.

Bennet Collins, Conference Co-Director, described the speakers as “the people who affect the policies of one of the most environmentally, economically, socially, and politically diverse and significant regions in the world.” He continued, “It would be a huge mistake to miss out on this conference for St Andrews students who are interested in politics, sustainable development, women’s rights, human trafficking, microfinance, or just making the world a better place.”

The full schedule can be found here, and tickets can be bought online or outside the Union. Friday tickets are £10 (including the keynote address of Gerard Prunier, a panel of four of Europe’s leading experts on the DRC, and a wine reception after), and weekend tickets are £25. These also include two roundtables, a keynote address from Koen Vlassenroot, an additional panel, along with refreshments.

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