Stanford University to Host National Conflict Minerals Conference

Apr 04, 2011, 14:05 ET from Stanford STAND

The conference, the first of its kind in the nation, will unite college students and members of the public across the country to learn about, discuss, and problem-solve the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Stanford STAND: A Student Coalition to End and Prevent Genocide and Mass-Atrocities, has organized a national conference to address the persistent issue of conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The conference, titled "From Your Campus to the Congo: Conflict Minerals and Their Impact," will take place at Stanford University over the weekend of April 8-10. Last year, Stanford University became the first major university to adopt an investment policy with respect to conflict minerals. By planning a national conference, Stanford continues to lead the conflict mineral initiative.

"The conflict in the Congo is horrific," said Stanford STAND's Advocacy Director Mari Tanabe. "But with our voice as investors, consumers, and concerned citizens, we have power to stop the violence." The term "conflict minerals" refers to the minerals that come from illegally controlled mines in the eastern part of the DRC and adjoining countries. Civilians are caught in the deadly middle as armed militias and groups struggle for control of mines and smuggling routes. According to the International Rescue Committee, over 5.4 million deaths have occurred as a result of the conflict. What's more, because of the widespread use of sexual violence against local populations as an intimidation tactic, the DRC has been called the rape capital of the world. Fueling this conflict is the lucrative process of mining and trading minerals like tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold.  

Though these atrocities are being perpetrated thousands of miles away, American citizens and institutions like universities hold the potential to take a vital step toward an end to the conflict, especially given the legislative relevance of the issue. The recent Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation includes provision 1502, which calls on companies to disclose whether their supply chain includes conflict minerals, and what they are doing to reduce or eliminate them.  And California is now the first state to consider legislation to regulate companies doing business in Congo: Senator Ellen Corbett, the California Senate Majority leader, introduced SB 161 on February 18, 2011. The groundbreaking legislation would require companies seeking procurement contracts with the state to comply with federal law to exercise due diligence in their supply chains to avoid supporting conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the broader Great Lakes region of Africa.

The goal of Stanford STAND's upcoming conference will be to equip students and members of the public with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to lead their universities and communities in a campaign to combat the atrocities in the DRC. Specifically, the conference's series of lectures and panels will highlight the history of the Congo, the role of conflict minerals and supply chains, and effective campus organizing skills. In addition, participatory workshops, training, and networking events will bring together the creative energy of students and activists who are working on the issue of conflict minerals. The conference will end by crafting a collaborative document on national objectives outlining the shared goals and priorities of the participating universities in order to create a more unified front.

"The issue of conflict minerals in the Congo is so important and immense that it cannot be left alone and it cannot be done alone," said Mari Tanabe. "Stanford STAND's conference intends to create a more unified national push towards conflict-free technology that will help schools around the country organize more effectively and in a more informed way."

In addition to a multitude of knowledgeable speakers from National STAND, the Enough Project, Stanford faculty, and the Congolese spoken-word artist and activist Omekongo, Stanford STAND is very excited to feature keynote speaker Chip Pitts on April 9.  Pitts, an expert on sustainability and corporate social responsibility throughout the supply chain, is the former chairman of Amnesty International USA and the former Chief Legal Officer of Nokia, Inc., as well as being law lecturer at Stanford Law School and Oxford University, Advisor to the United Nations Global Compact, and member of the UN's Expert Group on Conflict-Sensitive Practices.

The conference is in partnership with National STAND, the student-led division of Genocide Intervention Network/SDC and the Enough Project, as well as FSI and the IR department at Stanford.

For more information:

Conference Webpage (

Congo Siasa Blog (

Contact Information:  

Mari Tanabe, '13 –, 719.659.2725  

Chip Pitts, Lecturer in Law, Stanford Law School, 214.906.9424

Stanford STAND is a student organization that seeks to end and prevent genocides in the world around us. We work on the Stanford campus, in the local Bay Area, and in Washington D.C., using a three-pronged approach: advocacy, awareness, and fundraising.