African international-affairs expert John Prendergast spoke Tuesday at UCF about the devastating relationship between technology consumerism and African exploitation.
“There may not be another war in the world where there is such a direct link between our consumer appetite and such violence,” the humanitarian and best-selling author said to the audience of 200 people.
Prendergast’s presentation, entitled “Blood and Soil: Land, Politics, and Conflict Prevention,” was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office as a part of the 2012-2013 theme of “The Changing Face of Freedom in Today’s Turbulent Times.”
According to Prendergast, the Congo is one of the world’s richest non-petroleum based nations from its abundance of natural resources and yet its people and economy continue to suffer in poverty. For decades, he said, the Congolese government, multinational corporations and foreign powers have been “looting” the country for resources such as ivory, rubber, uranium, and the precious minerals used in popular electronic goods such as cell phones, laptops and tablets.
Despite the dire depiction of events, Prendergast cautioned against losing hope, and outlined a three-part solution: the establishment of a legitimate and unbiased peace process in which core issues are identified; a demand for transparency in the electronics industry and mining sectors; and accountability for all parties involved.
“Real peace requires confronting and addressing the core interests that drive war—greed and grievance,” Prendergast said. With these issues addressed, action can be taken towards what he called transformative change.
When asked to discuss practical ways in which individuals can become involved to support this cause, Prendergast directed the audience to the Raise Hope for Congo campaign for easy access to pre-filled petitions, awareness projects and more information. The key to this issue, he said, is targeting industry leaders through consumer activism and, over time, seeing the market change with the demand.
“Millions of lives are at stake in the Congo,” Prendergast said. “What will we do about it?”
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners included the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, UCF Diplomacy Program, Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, CliftonLarsonAllen, UCF Political Science Department, UCF LIFE, UCF Book Festival 2013 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center and the Global Connections Foundation.