Guest blog written by Bandi Mbubi
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.
At the beginning of 2019, Harvard Kennedy School invited me to apply for its executive program in Implementing Public Policy. The letter was timely as it arrived when I was reflecting on my life and considering my next moves. The more I read about the course, the more I was convinced that it was meant for me. It promised to teach effective techniques of policy analysis and implementation, with a particular emphasis on policy solutions to wicked problems, which greatly appealed to me. I faced a dilemma though: which of the two projects, I am involved in, should I focus on, as part of my learning experience? From the outset, I was required to choose one policy challenge to work on for the whole duration of the course.
Initially, I intended to work on policy solutions which would help reduce the rapidly increasing homelessness in the United Kingdom. This fitted well with my role as Director of the Manna Society, which runs a day centre for homeless people, in London Bridge, catering for 150 people, seven days a week, with approximately 1200 people, per year, receiving welfare and housing advice.
But then I changed my mind and chose to focus on another policy problem: conflict-minerals fueling armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, my home country. Although the DRC has enormous natural resources, with 1,100 minerals and precious metals and over 80 million hectares of arable land, it ranks among the poorest in the world at 176 out of 187 countries. And since 1996, a series of armed conflicts have resulted in over 6 million people dead and 4.5 million internally displaced.
In eastern DRC, where armed conflicts are prevalent, rebel groups and rogue elements of the national army use the illicit trade in minerals for personal gain and to finance their armed activities. These minerals are usually extracted artisanally and are referred to as conflict-minerals because of their use by armed groups. They consist of Tungsten, Coltan (from which Tantalum is extracted), Tin and Gold and are all important to the manufacturing of modern-day electronics.
‘Conflict-minerals’ was not a new policy challenge to me, at all, as I have worked on it since I launched Congo Calling, a UK-based NGO, in 2012 at TEDxExeter Congo Calling has three aims: (1) to stop mineral wealth from fuelling conflict, (2) to encourage responsible and environmentally sustainable exploitation of Congo’s natural resources, and (3) to use Congo’s vast natural resources to promote economic development for Congo’s people. I am proud of the fact that we have been able to work with fifteen universities across the UK to advocate that they adopt conflict-free technologies. And five of these universities credit Congo Calling as the reason why they changed the way they procure their technology. In addition, Congo Calling persuaded the City of Hull in the UK to change the way that they buy their technology. In 2016, the BBC interviewed me and named me as one of its Top 50 Outlook Inspirations.Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Congo Calling Rebooted