FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ST PETERSBURG/WASHINGTON – The City of St. Petersburg has passed a resolution changing its purchasing practices on electronics to favor products that are free of conflict minerals that are fueling the world's deadliest war in the Congo.
City Councilman Steve Kornell introduced the resolution that calls for the city to “favor verifiably conflict-free products” in its purchasing decisions. The action is part of a growing movement by governments and institutions to steer away from products that use conflict minerals, including tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold, from mines in eastern Congo that are controlled by armed groups that perpetrate mass atrocities. Such minerals are commonly found in computers, cell phones, and other electronics.
“Enacting this policy to make St. Petersburg conflict free was clearly the right thing to do,” Kornell said. “It was also surprisingly simple. Our purchasing director reported to city council that this policy would have almost no financial impact on St. Petersburg, and require almost no additional staff time. I encourage other municipalities to enact a conflict free purchasing policy.”
The Enough Project, an anti-genocide group in Washington, commended the city’s leadership.
“The City of St. Petersburg has clearly stated that it does not want to help fund the war in Congo, a war that has contributed to over 5 million deaths and hundreds of thousands of rapes,” said Enough Project
Co-founder John Prendergast. “St. Petersburg is leading the call to go conflict-free, and other cities across the nation should follow this example.”
Eckerd College and St Petersburg’s Florida Holocaust Museum have been champions on this issue, and Kornell and Prendergast first met when the latter was in St. Petersburg as a Scholar-in-Residence at Eckerd College last year.
“Images and stories of the Congolese people, including those by the Enough Project's John Prendergast, impressed Eckerd College students to watch, listen, motivate and persist,” said Alizza Punzalan-Randle, Eckerd's Director of Community and Media Relations. “When combined with the work of Councilman Kornell and the Enough Project, this after-effect of our yearlong focus on Africa is evidence that information can turn into action.”
Eckerd College senior Samantha Fenwick said, “The rape of 48 women an hour, the violence and depravity that individuals in Congo are forced to suffer through is unnecessarily perpetuated by our desire for gadgets, and that is not acceptable. Only by increasing awareness can we begin to change the situation, because once people know, it is their responsibility to act in a manner that is in line with their ethics."
St. Petersburg City Council’s resolution follows last year's federal legislation regulating companies that use conflict minerals in their products. A provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform act requires companies to disclose whether they use minerals from Congo and state the measures they are taking to ensure the minerals are not fueling conflict. Pittsburgh became the first city in the nation to go conflict free in April.
The resolution also calls on the Obama administration to help establish an international certification system for conflict minerals.