Activist to Speak on Conflict Minerals and Congo's Bloody Civil War

DURHAM, NC – Human rights activist and best-selling author John Prendergast will present a free talk, “Ending the Deadliest War in the World:  Conflict-Free Phones and Congo," Thursday, Nov. 29, at Duke University.

The talk, which is open to the public, takes place at 6 p.m. at Love Auditorium in the Levine Science Research Center (LSRC) on Duke’s West Campus.  Overflow seating, with live video, will be in LSRC room A158.

Prendergast’s talk will examine how conflict minerals are financing the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which more than 5.4 million people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced.

Armed forces on both sides, he will explain, are bankrolling the bloodshed through the sale of gold, tin, tungsten and other materials mined in eastern Congo and widely used in cellphones and other consumer electronics.  Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010, U.S. companies must audit their supply chains to help ensure that raw materials used in their products aren’t tied to the conflict.

In his talk at Duke, Prendergast will argue this is not enough.  He will provide ideas for action that could help accelerate the end of this destructive cycle of conflict.

A 30-minute Q&A will follow Prendergast’s talk, which is The Ferguson Family Distinguished Lectureship in the Environment and Society, sponsored by Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

A public reception will be held at 5:15 in the Hall of Science, adjacent to Love Auditorium.

Prendergast is co-founder of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity.  He’s worked for more than 25 years to promote peace in Africa, and has served as an advisor on African affairs for the White House, the U.S. State Department, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Through the Enough Project, he’s launched the Raise Hope for Congo campaign and the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative to increase consumer demand for conflict-free cellphones, laptops and electronics.  He’s also worked with actor George Clooney to create the Satellite Sentinel Project, which aims to use satellite imagery to prevent conflict and human rights abuses in Africa, and with Tracy McGrady and other NBA stars to form the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program, which funds schools in refugee camps.

Prendergast has written or co-written ten books, including two with actor Don Cheadle: the 2007 bestseller “Not on Our Watch,” and “The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes,” which was the 2010 NAACP Non-Fiction Book of the Year.  He serves as strategic advisor to Not on Our Watch, the nonprofit organization founded by Clooney, Cheadle, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.

The Ferguson Family Distinguished Lectureship, formerly known as the Duke Environment and Society Lecture, is presented by the Nicholas School’s Dean’s Office.  It was created in 2009 to bring to Duke major thought-leaders to speak on topics of significant social and environmental import.  Past speakers have included EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, former Vice President Al Gore Jr., and energy visionary Amory Lovins.