The Mobile Social Congress concludes: an essential space to expose human and environmental rights violations in the technology industry

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  • The MSC, organised by SETEM Catalunya, brought together specialists from all over the world to reflect on the future of digitalisation, faced with the growing importance of information technologies
  • Likewise, human rights abuses behind mining and electronics industry supply chains were also highlighted

The Mobile Social Congress (MSC), which was held the same week as the Mobile World Congress, has established itself as an essential space for raising awareness about the impacts of the technology industry. SETEM Catalunya has been organising the event since 2016.

The MSC, which took place from 27 February to 2 March in Barcelona, celebrated its ninth edition with the slogan “High tech, low rights: what is the real cost of the technology we consume?”, emphasising the social and environmental costs involved in the production of electronics and increasing digitalisation. All the links in the supply chain were analysed at MSC, from the extraction of minerals and raw materials necessary for the production of electronics to the use of devices and the point when these, after very little use, become waste. Another focus were the effects of digitalisation on mental health.

The first action, which was not part of the official programme, was a performance at the gates of the MWC on Monday 26 February, titled “The mine at home”. It showed how the effects of the extraction of raw materials, traditionally outsourced to countries in the global South, are worsening and continually affecting more countries.

On Tuesday 27th, the congress kicked off with one of the new features of this year’s edition, the live broadcast of an episode of the podcast “Carne Cruda” in the Paral·lel 62 venue. Experts on different links in the chain of production and consumption of digital technology participated and discussed their respective effects, with special emphasis being placed on the issues arising from electronic waste, on the right to repair as well as social and legislative initiatives for the prevention of such waste.

The impact of lithium extraction on indigenous territories

The programme continued on Thursday 29th with the screening of the documentary “Antes del litio” (Before the Lithium), by Costa Rica Producciones, produced with the support of the Ajuntament de Barcelona (Barcelona City Council) and the Observatorio Plurinacional de Salares Andinos (Plurinational Observatory of Andean Salt Flats). The documentary shows how, currently, in the north of Argentina, there are several ongoing mining projects aiming for the extraction of lithium in local salt flats and mountains, which are inhabited by communities resisting the onslaught of companies and governments that want to exploit these areas without their consent.

Laura Fontana from Alternativa Intercanvi amb Pobles Indígenes, discussed the issue with moderator and journalist Marta Molina, who recognised that the key alternative is degrowth. “What we have to change is our perspective, to transform the parameters of consumption”, she said, bearing in mind that “the harm caused in indigenous territories is alarming”, and that “we must put pressure on the administrations so that they incorporate this perspective into their decisions”.

Human rights abuses in cobalt mining

This was followed by the presentation of the book Cobalt Red, in which writer and activist Siddharth Kara reveals the human rights abuses behind cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Accompanied again by Marta Molina, Kara said, “I travelled several times to the Democratic Republic of Congo to document what is happening in these cobalt supply mines: what I saw is the apocalypse. Hundreds of people, including children, in subhuman conditions. Scavenging with their hands to get cobalt as quickly as possible. Three quarters of the cobalt supply comes from the Congo, mined under terrible conditions. It’s not only a violation of their human rights, but also of their environment”.

The activist explained that when we buy an electrical appliance, we don’t think about it being linked to the deaths of children in Congo, but that this is the reality imposed by technology companies, who do not take responsibility for what is happening in their supply chains. “The companies at the top of these chains that cause catastrophes in the Global South have to ensure equal dignity: the people at the bottom of the chain deserve the same dignity and the same rights as the workers at the headquarters of these tech companies,” added Kara.

Monitoring of factories in China

To reflect on the human rights violations hidden in the supply chains of the electronics industry and on the working conditions under which people work in electronics factories, Dimitri Kessler of the Economic Rights Institute spoke about factory monitoring in China. He identified a punitive work environment, designed to  prevent production from slowing down, but said that “if we hold companies accountable for their actions, their behaviour will change”. He also explained the obstacles and difficulties encountered by entities trying to monitor and engage with factories in China, a country marked by strong government repression.

Digital Justice

Thursday’s session closed with a round table on digital justice. Electronics and especially information technology have become increasingly important in recent years. In this ninth edition of the MSC, SETEM Catalunya reflects on what kind of future we want: do we have to accept digitalisation at any price?

The round table featured Leandro Navarro, from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, giving a talk on identity and verifiable credentials for global justice; Cori Crider, from Foxglove, who talked about how to deal with the tech giants. Finally, Sofia Trejo, from the Barcelona Supercomuting Center, delved into the world of artificial intelligence, making the connection to social and environmental justice.

Navarro said that, since machines and tools reproduce who we are, “how can they not be racist or sexist if we are? We can’t remove it surgically”.

Crider, for her part, explained that a third of the humanity connects to platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Instagram everyday, but that “without the work of content moderators, social networks would be full of terrorism, paedophilia and other toxic content. The networks would be much worse, they would be a terrible space. We wouldn’t let teenagers anywhere near them, and companies wouldn’t want to advertise anything. All the profit for the companies would evaporate. Yet big tech companies are not guaranteeing the moderator’s labour rights.”

Trejo added that artificial intelligence predictions are not automatically scientific, objective or true. “In reality, these systems reproduce and amplify historical patterns. The groups most affected are those that have been historically discriminated against: in particular women and minorities. What we are doing is generating potential forms of violence and discrimination on a large scale”.

Childhood and Screens

The MSC closed on Saturday 2nd March with a conference on Childhood and Screens, in which Mercè Botella, from Som Connexió, presented the “Guide for Cruel and Wicked Families”, in which she explains how to introduce the first mobile phone and how to accompany the experience, what is the best age to do so, and why: “In the guide I speak from my personal experience with my daughters; this is more than 10 years ago, and back nobody talked about this subject”. Xavier Casanovas, from the “Plataforma Adolescència Lliure de Mòbil”, spoke about how this movement of families, which is now present throughout Spain, began to organise and what its objectives are, and talked about the use of mobile phones in schools and why it should be regulated: “Society has been waiting for a movement like this to emerge; we do not need scientific evidence on how mobile phone use affects the development of children and adolescents, intuition already makes us see that something is not working (…) we want to delay the use of mobile phones in schools (…) many functions can be covered with a cell phone that is not smart. The writer Sergi Onorato presented the Digital Fasting Guide, and also explained the reasons why it is important that we rethink the relationship we as adults have with our cell phones: “we have to consider the productivist model promoted by capitalism in which we have to be doing things all the time; maybe you shouldn’t listen to a podcast while you are cooking; we need to recover the moments in which we have space to think and create for ourselves”.

Beyond MSC

The Mobile Social Congress is part of SETEM Catalunya’s fair electronics campaign – with the support of the Ajuntament de Barcelona and the Agència Catalana de Cooperació al Desenvolupament (Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation) – which is why the organisation has insisted on the need to further promote spaces for encounters, raising awareness and collective training beyond the MSC. Throughout the year the organisation offers workshops and training on these topics for children and young people. It also publishes and disseminates research and reports on the impact of the technology sector. Another one of SETEM Catalunya’s challenges is to influence public administrations to adopt Socially Responsible Public Procurement criteria and to hold transnational companies accountable in their respect for human rights.


Download photos here.


More information and interview management:

Sara Blázquez | 679 86 45 18 |

Josep Comajoan | 699 18 05 46 |


New EU law sets to make repair more affordable for selected products, campaigners push for widespread right to repair

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The Right to Repair Europe coalition, representing more than 130 organisations, celebrates that European consumers will get better access to affordable repairs for selected products, but urges for more wide ranging rules.

On Thursday, EU lawmakers reached a deal on new repair rules. In a leap forward, the new law supports independent repair and improves consumers’ access to affordable repair options, by introducing rules for reasonable prices for original parts as well as banning software practices which prevent independent repair and the use of compatible and reused spare parts. Campaigners applaud this as a step in the right direction for affordable repair.

However, this rule is only applicable to products for which the EU legislation lays down reparability requirements [2]. For these few product categories, producers will for the first time be obliged to offer repair options beyond the legal guarantee period of two years. Right to Repair Europe demands a broader right to repair legislation covering more product categories during the next mandate. Regrettably, the current law also fails to offer broader access to more repair information and more spare parts, and to prioritise repair within the legal guarantee framework.

The EU Commission will introduce a European online platform listing repair and buyback solutions in Member States and harmonised quote/estimations, which will increase the visibility of repair options and transparency for their costs. EU lawmakers also encourage Member States to introduce repair funds and vouchers, which have proven successful as a viable strategy to improve repair affordability. Furthermore, small steps were taken to make repair under guarantee more attractive.

Smaller wins with smaller impacts

The new law mandates sellers to propose repairs if products fail during the legal guarantee period, accompanied by a one-year extension of the guarantee after repair. While positively received, the incentive might still be perceived as inferior next to the offer of replacements. We would have preferred a requirement to repair products within the legal guarantee to reduce unnecessary waste.

The EU Commission will establish an online platform helping consumers locate nearby repair options, amplifying repair visibility.

Upon consumer’s request, repairers may choose to submit a harmonised repair quote/estimation called the “European Repair Information Form”, including binding information such as the type or repair suggested and its price or, if the precise cost cannot be calculated, the applicable calculation method and maximum price of repair.

Right to Repair Europe will follow-up with a more detailed analysis of the measures once we have access to the legal text approved.

Cristina Ganapini, Coordinator of the Right to Repair Europe coalition, said: “The promising steps towards affordable repairs are a victory for our coalition representing the future of the European repair economy. This is not without thanks to the EU Parliament, particularly MEP René Repasi’s tireless efforts against pushbacks. The next EU Commission must pick up the baton and keep working on ecodesign to secure repairability rules for more products, while national governments must introduce repair funds.”

Marie Castelli, Head of Public affairs of Back Market, said :

“Putting an end to manufacturers’ techniques preventing independent repair and refurbishment is a huge step forward in the building of a more circular economy in the EU. By opening the after sales markets on the products covered, this text will allow consumers to access quality affordable repair. We now need to extend this freedom to repair to as many products as possible. We count on the next mandate to have an ambitious ecodesign work plan on electronics, which is the fastest growing waste stream”.

Mathieu Rama, Senior Programme Manager at ECOS,  said:

“The blight of e-waste must be stopped, so every step towards easily repairable electronic products is a win for the environment. With more reasonable spare parts prices and improved access to independent repair, we are heading in the right direction – but this directive is not enough. It covers only a small group of products – many more must still be brought under the ecodesign umbrella before we can really speak about a universal right to repair.”

[2] The product groups currently covered by repairability requirements under ecodesign: smartphones and tablets, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, fridges, displays, welding equipment, servers and soon vacuum cleaners.


About Right to Repair Europe coalition:

The Right to Repair Europe campaign is a coalition of European organisations pushing for system change around repair. It consists of over 130 members in 23 countries, including NGOs, repair businesses, repair networks, and repairers themselves.

Cristina Ganapini
Coordinator of Right to Repair Europe


Phone: +39 3713519473


Europe needs a 10 Year Smartphone – a new campaign launches 

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  • Over 200 million smartphones are sold annually in the EU – that’s almost 7 every second 
  • 77% of EU citizens would prefer to repair their goods rather than buy new ones, only around 11% will repair their phones when they break. This is because they’re often impossible or too expensive to fix 
  • New 10 year smartphone campaign to reverse these trends and make longer lasting smartphones the norm
  • Extending the lifetime of smartphones by just one year could save 2.1 million tonnes in annual CO2 emissions. Going further and extending the lifetime from 3 to 10 years would save 6.2 million tonnes annually by 2030 – a 42% reduction on their overall footprint


The Right to Repair Europe coalition is launching the 10-year smartphone campaign to highlight the environmental, social and economic urgency for smartphones to last much longer than they currently do.

The 23rd of September marks the anniversary of the launch of the Android operating system and comes a day before Apple’s new iPhone 13 goes on sale. Both companies are notorious for their products’ short lives; Google’s phones only get software updates for 3 years and Apple’s suffer from unrepairable design, spare parts only being available to authorised repairers and the use of software as a barrier to repair.

“We believe the measures needed for all Europeans to have the right to use their phones for at least 10 years are key not only to achieve Europe’s sustainability ambitions but also to create new jobs and build resilient communities,” says Right to Repair Europe campaigner Chloé Mikolajczak.

The coalition campaign is revealing the barriers to truly longer lasting phones by setting up a parody crowdfunder for a product that would last for at least 10 years. Some characteristics of a “10 Year Smartphone” include: 

  1. Design for repair: The 10 Year Smartphone is easy to open, disassemble and repair with a single screwdriver so that EVERYONE can choose to do it if they want to. No glue involved or other tricks. This includes batteries.
  2. 10 years of software support: Software support is often dropped after only a few years, affecting performance and security. The 10 Year Smartphone has a decade of software support and doesn’t use software as a barrier to repair.
  3. 10 years of spare parts availability: Genuine spare parts are often impossible to get or way too expensive. The 10 Year Smartphone’s parts would be delivered in 24 hours. To do this, broken phones will be collected and functioning parts recouped.

Visitors to can learn more, watch our “launch” video and sign the letter. 

Indeed, to complement this parody product, the campaign is circulating a letter, aimed at the European Commission and co-signed by more than 25 leading thinkers and activists in the repair, digital rights, design and sustainability sectors including Leyla Acaroglu (Disruptive Design), Kyle Wiens (Ifixit), Thibaud Hug de Larauze (Back Market) and David Cormand (The Greens).

The letter and the signatures from the public will be handed over to the European Commission at the end of October, a few weeks before the European Commission presents its new “Circular Electronics Initiative”. 

In March 2020, the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan promised a “new Right to Repair” and measures to ensure that sustainable products, services and business models become the norm.

But the initial Right to Repair measures implemented this year for household appliances are far from enough. Not only do they restrict improvements mainly to professional repairers, they do not address the central issues of the cost of repair and software updates.

About the Right to Repair campaign:  

The Right to Repair European campaign is a coalition of more than 80 organisations from 18 European countries fighting for longer-lasting and more repairable products.

The campaign members represent community repair groups, environmental activists, social economy actors, self repair advocates and any citizen who would like to obtain their right to repair.

About the Circular Electronics Initiative:

An EU initiative to promote longer product lifetimes, implement right to repair (including right to update obsolete software). It is expected in Q4 2021.


For more information, please contact:

Chloé Mikolajczak

Right to Repair campaigner


Crisis in Agbogbloshie, Ghana, caused by forced dismantlement of the landfil

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July 2021

  • Last week, the regional government of Accra (Ghana) began to dismantle the market and electronic landfill sites in the Agbogbloshie neighbourhood, where thousands of people work in pitiful conditions.
  • The intention is to move the activity in the area 30 kilometres to the north, endangering the livelihood of many families without guaranteeing them an acceptable working environment.
  • Addressing the problem from a local perspective complicates the lives of workers in the area. The workers are, in fact, victims of the savage production model associated with electronics, that sustains societies’ techno-dependent life in the global north. 

Agbogblishe, one of the largest electronic dumping sites in the world, is situated in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Its name refers to the neighbourhood where it is located, being in the centre of the city. People from various locations, often from the north of the country (where the population have the least resources), come in search of a job, as their only way to survive.

On June 28, 2021, Henry Quartey, “Greater Accra Regional Minister”, ordered the dismantling of Agbogbloshie within his “Let’s Make Greater Accra Work” agenda. Starting with the onion traders at the neighbourhood market and the scrap dealers at the landfill, this campaign aims to phase out the current activity in Agbogbloshie, and move it to Adjen Kotoku at 30 km in the north.

The police have entered Agbogbloshie using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the merchants who riot in the neighbourhood. They have ordered the immediate evacuation of the merchants, demolishing everything with bulldozers, and broadcasting with pride what they call “taking possession of Agbogbloshie” on social media and the press.

Agbogbloshie is considered to be a circular economy centre. However, the conditions in which people work recycling are deplorable. Without protection or appropriate means to guarantee proper recycling, these people are exposed to toxic manipulation that, frequently, ends up causing very serious damages to their health. Very young people, including children, recover heavy metals from the landfill to resell them. There are also many women and girls who mainly sell food and water to the workers, washing and extinguishing the fire from the burning of wiring. The burning of this waste makes the population that spends their day in Agbogbloshie continuously breathe a cloud of toxics air. This is reflected in the high levels of heavy metals in their blood and urine, as well as respiratory, skin, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. This situation not only affects the people of the landfill itself, but everyone around them: the fruit and vegetable market, schools, temples and houses. In addition, Agbogbloshie also creates an environmental disaster, since the river and the animals in the area are totally contaminated by the electronic waste.

Despite all of this, it should be noted that Agbogbloshie’s landfill and its surroundings constitute the livelihood of thousands of people in the area, without which they would be doomed to an even greater precarious situation. That is why the immediate dismantling of the landfill puts the people who work there and in the market area in a situation of great vulnerability.

We call for an end to the violence carried out by the Agbogbloshie dismantlement and relocation campaign, ensuring that the displacement to Adjen Kotoku leads to an improvement in the working conditions of all people, the community and the environment.

There is a large population from which the government is taking away the little they have, demanding an immediate abandonment of their current way of life. The local government of Henry Quartey must guarantee security, in a totally peaceful process where the human rights of all the people of Agbogbloshie must be respected. The new Adjen Kotoku facilities must ensure fair working conditions and minimize current social and environmental impacts.

We may think that Agbogbloshie’s crisis is a local problem, but its roots extend beyond Ghana. The current electronics production and consumption model ends up having very serious consequences in the Global South. Therefore, what is happening in Agbogbloshie is a global problem.

Moreover, the case of Agbogbloshie is not an isolated case. According to the latest data, 53.6 million tons of electronic waste were generated in the world during 2019, of which only 17.40% were properly recycled. There is considerable uncertainty about a significant amount of e-waste that ends up in illegal traffic sent to countries like Ghana, where there are no resources to recycle properly.

In front of a global problem, we demand a global solution. All parties involved have to be accountable: manufacturers, political institutions, public administrations and consumers. By denouncing what is happening in Agbogbloshie, we want to make visible the multitude landfills in impoverished countries that receive electronic waste from the Global North. The Basel Convention that regulates these illegal movements must be complied with and audited, avoiding the export of toxics to those who precisely generate the least.

As consumers, we must not forget that the solution is not only to recycle properly where it has been generated, but that the main objective is to reduce our consumption, as well as to divert our efforts to repair and reuse.