The digital committee, chaired by Andres Viana Oporto, Norah Moye Ovedraogo and Cherine Abd el All, debated at the Campus Biotech, a university department in Geneva, on the 11, 12 and 13th of January 2023. The committee was made up of 85 delegates representing 43 delegations and treated the following issues: “How to limit the environmental footprint of smartphones?” and “How to make data centers more sustainable?”.

The lobbying session about the first issue on the 11th led to a clash of interest. Alliances between Xiaomi, Samsung, Apple, Lenovo, Microsoft, Huawei, China, South Korea, South Africa, Senegal, Mexico, WMO, Germany and Vietnam were formed during this session as well as Finland, Mexico, India, Australia, Italy, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, France, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Japan, Bulgaria, Egypt, European Union, Kenya, United Kingdom and Senegal.

From the few delegates we were able to interview, here are some of the outcomes they wished possible out of this conference:

  • The delegation of Russia wished to raise funds in order to pay for infrastructures that will reduce their carbon footprint and raise the funds for research in order to create better recyclable smartphones.
  • The delegation of South Korea hoped to find ways to keep a more sustainable future and make the cause of smartphones more sustainable as well as reduce waste and carbon footprints while still benefiting from this situation.
  • The delegation of the Xiaomi Corporation aspired for a more economic aspect to the resolution because to them, making the world greener is pointless if the companies fall apart while doing it. This delegation tried making important but realistic improvements.
  • Finally, the delegation of Germany aimed for the well-being of the plant as it is more important than profit. They wished to make long-life batteries and hoped to raise awareness to recycling smartphones.

Despite a few conflicts, the delegates succeeded in writing an encouraging draft resolution and delegates left hopeful that the next few debating days would create an adequate resolution.

The beginning of the second day started with the end of the lobbying and the decision to only debate on 1 resolution instead of 2. The strong will of companies and countries to work together ran the debate. The Dutch delegation began the debate by presenting the resolution written the day before.

An amendment was then brought forward by WMO, the delegation wanted to strike a clause that called for the creation of a new committee dedicated to finding solutions to the debating issue: “ What is the point of creating a whole new committee to shed light on solutions. Today, we are all gathered here to discuss those issues, you have to stop postponing this debate and take action to find solutions now.” This showed the delegate’s strong will to make a difference in our world.

Another notable amendment was made by the delegation of South Africa to bring companies in their countries to help in the development and the economy of South Africa. Norway made a point of information asking if it won’t lead to child labour which caused a stir amongst the delegates. South Africa reassured them that bringing the economy up will help other issues such as human rights and that bringing companies to South Africa had no reason to lead to child labour.

The committee finally voted for the resolution with Netherland as main submitter and a majority of votes for, a few votes against and one abstention.

On the third day, the committee started with speeches from the delegations of the United Kingdom, Cameroon, India and the European Union. The delegates then shifted their attention toward the resolution brought forward by the federation of France which had, at the time, 13 clauses.

The day was long with many amendments presented by the delegations. The federation of Portugal presented an amendment on the first clause to stop using generators and only use renewable energies. A speech against this amendment was made by the Huawei Corporation saying that backup generators can run and that they are more reliable. If there is no wind, for example, it won’t work. It is better to use fossil fuel because they are more reliable. This amendment did not pass.

Another amendment was made by the delegation of vietnam for clause 4, subclause a and to suppress “reporting profiles of dead people in order to suppress the “ as it is harsh to suppress the account of a dead person. The motion to pass to voting was seconded and this amendment passed.

At the end of the day, there were some delegations who made speeches for and against the resolution. The delegation of France made a speech for the resolution. As they said, they are ready to reinforce sustainability and it is a good example of multilateralism and reflective of many efforts. This delegation is convinced it is the way to go: “voting against this resolution means that you are not ready to fight for our world”. On the opposite side, there were no speeches against the resolution.

The resolution passed with no votes against and only two abstentions.

Despite some confusion amidst the delegations, they finally succeeded in fighting to ensure that their issues see the light. We thank the chairs for leading this debate headstrong, the admins with whom this conference would not be possible, and we congratulate the delegates for debating hard and coming up with resolutions despite organization and time issues.

Aurore Stamatiadis et Romane Rouvière