Social and environmental conflicts from mining extractivism in Chile, Armenia and Zambia

Again and again, the electronics industry demands non-renewable mineral resources to sustain its current predatory model of capitalist production and consumption. This first round table discussion will include the presentation of three reports on social and environmental impacts in three mining regions: Chile, Armenia and Zambia.

Communities that suffer from mining extractivism are faced with serious violations of human rights and their local surroundings are seriously affected. Local ways of life are radically transformed (for example, agriculture becomes impossible with the exhaustion of water, or visitors to tourist areas are lost as a result of mining and the forced removal of the local population), pollution becomes serious, biodiversity is lost, and local sources of water are eliminated. Meanwhile, any protests against these projects are criminalized.

Sebastian Smart

With a PhD in Human Rights and Latin American Studies from the University College of London (UCL) and a Law Degree from the Catholic University of Chile, Smart has worked to defend human rights regarding transnational justice, social movements, natural resources, digital governance, public policy and social policy in organizations based in Chile, Haiti and the United Kingdom. At the MSC, he will present a report prepared with support from War on Want and CATAPA on the Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile.

Anna Shahnazaryan

An environmental and feminist activist for the Armenian Environmental Front, since 2010 Shahnazaryan has participated in different campaigns against local and multinational mining companies and their negative impact on local communities. At the MSC, she will present the “Save Amulsar” campaign, which seeks to protect the spa town and mountain of Amulsar, in Armenia, from a proposed open-pit gold mine. This campaign obtained a significant boost from the 2018 protests against Armenia’s authoritarian government, which was eventually toppled. At the MSC, Anna Shahnazaryan will explain to what degree international political pressure and the neoliberal global financial system played a key role in the Amulsar mining project.

Linda Scott Jakobsson

A researcher and specialist in procurement for the Swedish NGO Swedwatch, which investigates companies’ impacts on human rights and the environment. At the MSC, Linda Scott Jakobsson will discuss the impact of copper mining in Zambia on human rights, specifically regarding pollution and the forced displacement it causes.

Modern slavery, forced labour and suicides in the electronics industry

The second round table will focus on the analysis of modern slavery and the working conditions in the electronics industry.

The first report presented will look at how these working conditions are linked to suicides in multiple electronics factories in China. A second report will look at Eastern Europe, another productive region for the electronics industry. Participants will discuss mobilizations against Hungary’s new “Slave Law”, which was approved last December. This law represents a significant step back in workers’ rights, as it allows employers to impose up to 400 hours of overtime on employees. Finally, participants will explain the impact of the arrival of Foxconn (one of the main suppliers for brands such as Apple) in the Czech Republic on working conditions there.

Dimitri Kessler

Obtained a PhD in the Sociology of Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he focused his research on development and workers’ rights in China. He has done field research on the subject for years, first in Taipei and Beijing, and in Hong Kong since 2005. In 2012 he founded the Economic Rights Institute (ERI) which does research and provides solutions on the improvement of working conditions. At the MSC, he will present ERI and Electronics Watchs’ report on the connections between working conditions and suicide in the Chinese electronics industry. Although the report does admit that the causes are complex and may be the result of multiple factors, it also shows that in China, the way electronics companies push workers past their limits does contribute to a higher risk of suicide. In making these connections, the report seeks to make companies’ responsibility clear and identify more effective means of prevention.

Robert Fidrich

An active member of social and environmentalist movements in Hungary, since 2000 Robert Fidrich has led the Green Spider Foundation and served as the coordinator of MTVSZ/Friends of the Earth Hungary. Through these organizations, he has focused on topics like food sovereignty, globalization and commerce and mining. Since 2017 he has worked with the Towards Sustainability Association (TSA) as the program coordinator for Make ICT Fair. At the MSC, he will explain Hungary’s so-called “Slave Law”, which was passed last December and which allows the electronics and other sectors to impose up to 400 hours of overtime on workers.

Hannah Schling

A doctoral candidate in Human Geography at King’s College in London, her research focuses on migrants who work in the export manufacturing sector in the Czech Republic, in a system of fragmented labour relations through employment agencies. At the MSC, Hannah Schling will present the working conditions at Foxconn –Apple’s leading manufacturer– in the Czech Republic. She will discuss the different pressures faced there by migrant workers from Mongolia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Public purchase: a tool to revert labour exploitation in the electronics industry

The third round table will discuss socially responsible public purchasing, a potentially powerful tool for improving working conditions in the electronics industry. Participants will look at the influence of the public purchase of ICT products with social clauses and the possibilities offered by monitoring contracts. This will include the practical experience of Electronics Watch, and the virtuous cycle of collaboration between public administrations affiliated with organizations in producing countries, so that the monitoring can be done by the workers themselves. Finally, two more practical cases will be presented with the experiences of the Stockholm Region in Sweden and of the Barcelona City Council.

Peter Pawlicki

The director of Outreach and Education at Electronics Watch, Pawlicki has a Master’s Degree in Political Sciences and a PhD in Sociology from Johann-Wolfang-Goethe University. For over ten years, he has done research on the globalization of the electronics industry and its effects on working conditions and labour rights. He has participated in a number of international research projects, and he is a co-author of “From Silicon Valley to Shenzhen: Global Production and Work in the IT Industry”. Before joining Electronics Watch, he coordinated projects funded by the European Social Fund, focused on the training of work councils. At the MSC, Peter Pawlicki will discuss the ICT industry’s global supply chain, and the potential of socially responsible public purchasing for improving working conditions.

John Watt

Sustainable Economy and Procurement officer at ICLEI, an association bringing together over 1,000 local governments from 67 countries committed to sustainable development. For four years, Watt has provided support to different administrations in projects seeking to apply social and environmental criteria to purchases. At the MSC, he will present different types of public purchase that can push businesses towards more ethical supply chains, and he will show how intelligently designed criteria can have positive effects on global supply chains.

Kathleen McCaughey

With Law Degrees from Canada and Sweden, for over 20 years McCaughey has worked with NGOs on human and environmental rights. She currently works on human rights, workers’ rights and against corruption in the Stockholm Region, including in supply chains for electronic products. At the MSC, she will discuss how the Stockholm Region uses public procurement to address the high risk involved in the supply chains for electronic products, from the obtention of minerals to the last link in the production chain and the end of the useful life of products. She will explain different purchasing tools that can push businesses to change their habits, whether in award criteria, contractual obligations or later supervision.

Carla Canal Rosich

A political scientist with a Masters’ Degree in the management of public policy and international cooperation, Canal has worked in public policy coherence and sustainable development both at the Government of Catalonia and the current Barcelona City Council. She has also worked in international cooperation and education projects for development with a number of organizations. She currently works at the Barcelona City Council’s Management of Global Justice and International Cooperation. At the MSC, she will present the Barcelona City Council’s pilot project to include social clauses in its contracting agreements.

Experiences in repairing and recycling electronic products from the solidarity economy, companies and the public sector

The fourth and final round table will focus on local experiences in collaboration between the public sector and cooperatives, and on other projects that work to extend the lifespan of electronic products from the social and solidarity economy, through either reuse and repair or recycling. Finally, an initiative from the business world on recycling will be presented along with a pilot project on leasing with businesses.

Mireia Roura

An environmental biologist with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Barcelona (UB), a Master’s Degree in Journalism (Columbia University & UB) and a Master’s Degree in Corporate Social Responsibility, Accounting and Social Auditing (UB), Roura has worked on multiple environmental projects. She has ten years of experience in environmental and scientific communication and education work with the media. For four years, she has worked as a project manager in the construction of eReuse circuits to promote the reuse, certification and traceability until final recycling of electronic devices. At the MSC, she will present the Barcelona City Council’s experience in reusing electronic devices that generate added value. Since 2017, this administration has worked to reuse devices that are becoming obsolete, giving them to a collaborative circuit made up of 22 entities from the circular and social economy.

Marisa Gliosca

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and in Computer Systems from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), since 2002 Gliosca has been the technical director of Andròmines where she coordinates programs in computer training and the reuse of electric and electronic devices, among others. These programs promote reuse and bring technology to any individuals that may suffer from discrimination as a result of the so-called “digital gap”. At Andròmines, Glicosa works on a daily basis to promote and create public-private collaboration strategies that facilitate the reuse of computers and other devices. At the MSC, she will discuss Andròmines’ experience in the reuse of these devices in collaboration with the Barcelona City Council (through Punt Verd recycling centres), as well as its work with the Department of Justice of the Government of Catalonia on reusing computers in prisons.

Miquel Ballester

Co-founder and Resource Efficiency manager at Fairphone. After obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering for Industrial Design with a specialization in sustainable design, at Fairphone Miquel Ballester has helped to design both products and the organization itself. He has participated in the exciting process of transforming a non-profit into a social business, and is an expert in circular economy projects. At the MSC, he will explain Fairphone’s recycling program, and the new pilot project for establishing a leasing program with companies.