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SDG 12: When buying a cellphone becomes an issue

SDG 12: When buying a cellphone becomes an issue

  • Posted: Jun 28, 2016 -
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Understanding the impact that our lifestyles have on the environment is key to bringing about behavioural change.

Waste, pollution and excessive consumption are all hurting the earth and its inhabitants, not just through climate change, but also by fuelling violence, mass displacement of people, degradation of land and unsustainable water practices.

The twelfth Sustainable Development Goal that stablishes the United Nations calls for sustainable consumption and production patterns. According to the UN, this will require “doing more and better with less” and “engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement.”

Members of the Justice in Mining Network are involved in a campaign focused on this theme. Spanish NGO Alboan, Jesuit Missions UK and the Jesuit European Social Centre, with the support of the broader Justice in Mining Network, have campaigned around the issue of conflict minerals, lobbying for a change to European laws.

It would require manufacturers of items such as computers and smart phones to undertake proper due diligence of their supply chains. This due diligence would establish whether some of the payments for minerals used in production (in particular tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold), sourced from areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are being siphoned off to fund armed groups and support violent conflict in Africa.

Many people do not realise what has gone in to producing their cellphone. They are ignorant both of the link between production and conflict, and of the impact of manufacture on the environment. The Conflict-free Technology campaign aims to change this.

Production of the raw materials for just one handset, for example, can generate 75 kg of waste materials. Tungsten is a key component of phones, used in the vibrating function. But there is only one gram of tungsten in every tonne of rock, meaning there is nearly a tonne of waste for every gram of tungsten eventually used in an electronic device.

Our consumption of technology also demands reflection. In Europe, around 40 per cent of existing mobiles are renewed every year, despite most batteries having a life of up to ten years. Not only are such consumption rates unsustainable, but significant technological waste is then dumped on poorer countries in contravention of the law and with devastating impacts on those societies and their environment.

The Conflict-free Technology campaign led by Alboan aims to enlighten consumers about what their mobile phone hides in the hope that this may influence consumer behavior. It also seeks to lobby politicians to ensure a mandatory due diligence requirement is brought into European law.

Campaigns such as this are crucial to ensuring the type of responsible consumption envisaged by SDG 12.

For more information about the Conflict-free technology campaign, including educational resources and information on how to help, see www.tecnologialibredeconflicto.org.

About the author: Julie Edwars is CEO of Jesuit Social Services, an Australian social change organisation working to build a just society. Julie was appointed the leader of the Core Group of the Mineral Resources GIAN in 2012.

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María: volunteering in REAP – India

María: volunteering in REAP – India

  • Posted: Mar 30, 2015 -
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The Reach Education Action Program (REAP) is a Jesuit institution. Its main aim is to provide basic primary level education to girls and boys living in slums, and to promote women in Indian Society.

To educate someone involves more than teaching them how to read and write, it is teaching them how to communicate, how to live in society. To educate someone opens windows full of opportunities and social transformations. The mission of REAP is to impart education upon those who are excluded from society. During two summers I have been able to work in this institution with children who live in the most absolute poverty.

To work with REAP has been an honor for me. The way in which this institution is trying to enhance the dignity of the lives of these children who live in slum conditions, and the way it gives them opportunities to live instead of merely surviving is marvelous. The children need attention, education, and more importantly, they need to be recognized.

I have been able to learn about the way they work, the way they live and the culture in their society in Dolkhamb, a small village with beautiful views and gentle people. The telephone network didn’t cover the village. I was totally out of touch with the world.

Over the course of two summers I lived with 45 children between 8 and 16 years old, along with their teacher. All of them are in the program because in their villages they don’t have access to education and their families don’t have the capacity to care for them. I was sent to this program to teach them English, to learn how to work with the women who live around Dolkhamb and to experience the most humble schools in this country.

The girls I lived with haven’t ever known anything outside of this village and the surrounding towns. They have never seen a big city or got to know different people. Therefore the first thing that I had to do was to adapt myself to their way of life, to appear as much like them as possible, although with just skin color and language the differences were obvious. The first few days were complicated because they spoke no English and I didn’t speak any Marathi or Hindi. But as I settled in over the next few days, the difficulties disappeared and everything became much easier.

In these few months that I have been in Dolkham, the children have learnt basic English for certain situations in a dynamic teaching environment with songs and dances, and I have learnt how to live with only what is necessary, and sometimes with less. What these 45 girls have taught me can only be described in this way; they’ve taught me how to live, how to be happy with what I have and how to smile in the hardest moments. I consider this tiny village that I’ve told you about to be my home and all the kids I’ve lived with to be part of my family.

It’s always difficult to relate in writing what has been lived or felt, and even more difficult now that I am here and they are there. I only hope that these children and the women with whom I shared these moments with will continue fighting for their rights and to change the inequalities that are still present in the world.

 

2015: turning point for education

2015: turning point for education

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2015 -
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This post has been written by Lucía Rodríguez, team leader of the Core Group of the GIAN Network for the Right to Quality Education.

When I used to study in collegue a literary generation was described as a group of writers bonded by certain a ideology and style in a concrete time period – fifteen years aproximately-. In 2000, fifteen years ago, the General Secretary of United Natios, Koffi Annan, would state to the world that we were the first generation capable of ending with the world poverty. We had the means and skills to do it and every nation along with every significant international development organization came to a common political agreement, the Millennium Development Goals which will set up a serial of essential challenges such as extreme poverty reduction into half, combat HIV/AIDS and achieve universal primary education.

This would occur just a few months after those same countries had agreed in Dakar- Senegal, the Education For All Goals (EFA Goals). Fifteen years later, I am writing this post as I read the report “Education For All, 2000-2015: Achievements & challenges” that UNESCO has released today making an evaluation about what this generation has been capable of to guarantee the right to quality education for everyone.

The report, I assume that trying to rescue the silver lining, starts asssesing the improvements that have been achieved, and even if there are some, these have been that indifferent and insufficient that we can only think that this generation has failed one more time. During these fifteen years, for example, the number of children who have never gone to school has been reduced since some governments have increased public investment in education. However, as UNESCO Deputy Manager, Irina Bokova has mentioned, the report shows that the results are modest, that Education for All has not became a reality in the world- still only one third of the countries reached the six goals- and “we have to do a lot more to place quality education and life long learning at hand for everyone.”

The assessment shown by the report give us some numbers that make us think how urgent it is to take global action and give education the importance it deserves and that it has been denied for the last fifteen years:

  • 47% of the countries has managed to entend and imporve primary children attention and education, specially in favour of those who are most vulnerable, but a 20% still stands a long way form achieving this goals.
  • In the attempt to reach universalization of primary teaching, it is where we can find the greatest improvement. Half of the countries with which we have numbers have achieved universalization primary schooling. One third of these minors unschoolarized live in areas lashed by wars and conflicts.
  • At world level, the number of scholars signed up in the secondary first term increased by 27%, while in Subsharian Africa the number was doubled. However, one third of the youngsters who live in low and medium income countries will not manage to finish the first term of secondary education.
    Without a doubt, where there has been the least improvement is in adult literacy: 751 million youngsters over 15 years old and adults cannot read or write, two thirds of them being women. In 2000, this number increased up to 800 million.
  • Education investment has increased but we must find urgently the way to cover the 22.000 million $ that means the education annual deficit to achieve pre scholar and primary education quality for every boy and girl in 2030.

Taking a look at these numbers we might be sceptical, discouraged or frustrated but we must never forget the responsability we all share as educators. 2015 is the assessment year but also it is the year to shape our next new international commitments that will make a reality the Right to Education for everyone and to face the challenges of poverty eradication, climate change fight and achieving a truly sustainable development for the following generations.

Two of the most important appointments where all our international leaders need to make commitments are up coming: the Corea World Education Forum 2015 in Incheon, Korea hosted by UNESCO in May and the World Assembly of the Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations headquarters in New York where some of the GIAN representatives will be attending to both of these international meeting to defend the excluded and the impoverished interests.

A few days ago, two old friends have reached me with messages full of hope and life. Yolanda from Honduras writes: “I believe that, in these times, keeping the hope in believing that things can change, people can change, it is not only an act of faith but of rebellion. And at least in that, I want to be a rebel.”

And Luis form Venezuela reminded “people don’t die or give up their dreams of free and dignified life. When we are doing as bad as now, some only see ashes of desolation and end up thinking that our people is subordinate to their challenges, that there is no solution. In their short- sightedness, they don’t appreciate that underneath the ashes there are embers waiting for an inspiring breeze that turns them into unstoppable fire.”

I still wait for justice, education for everyone and trusting in this generation, mine and ours, will be able to rebel and together we will meet the changes to reach a sustainable development starting from education.