STAND Members Travel to D.C. to Appeal to Congressmen Against Conflict Minerals

Seven members of STAND, Andover’s student anti-genocide coalition, visited Washington, D.C. last weekend to meet congressmen and lobby against the use of conflict minerals in the production of common electronics in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Conflict minerals are minerals that are extracted in areas with armed conflict and human rights abuses. In Congo, armed forces have forced women and children to mine these minerals. STAND members worked primarily with the aides of House Representatives Gerry Connolly, Niki Tsongas, Dave Loebsock, Frank Wolf and Senator Chuck Grassley. MJ Engel ’13 said, “The best part for me was meeting with Chuck Grassley’s aides because they were the first to disagree with us. I feel like that’s when I got the real experience of lobbying.” STAND members gave congressional aides a brief presentation on the repercussions of conflict minerals. Members also suggested policies that would prevent US companies from buying minerals from Congo and provide tax incentives to companies that discontinue the use of minerals from Congo. Matt Lloyd-Thomas ’12 said, “Representative Gerry Connolly’s office was very receptive. They gave the impression that stopping the use of contact minerals was important to them.” The aides told the STAND members that they would fully support and take on their suggestions if they heard about any bills regarding conflict materials. Representative Frank Wolf’s aide even said that he would be interested in co-authoring a bill. Jen Sluka ‘13 said, “The people we met were so knowledgeable and interested in what we had to say.” Hannah Finnie ‘11 said, “We all come from different backgrounds and we were lobbying together for one cause. I felt like we really made a difference.” Members of STAND were also amazed by how accessible the congressmen and senators were. Sluka said, “All I had to do was call the offices of the representatives. I set up two appointments.” Engel shared Sluka’s sentiments. “I always thought of the government as being so far away, but they were really easy to reach.” For Lloyd-Thomas and Finnie, last week’s lobbying marked their second trip to Washington, D.C. She said, “The last time we went lobbying was for a conference. We had a prepared speech for the aides we met. This time it was much more informal. We got to address all the questions and concerns that the aides had.” Members of STAND also visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and felt that visiting the museum served as a reminder of the importance of preventing genocide. Finnie said, “Visiting the Holocaust Museum reminded us of the mistakes made in the past and what we are trying to prevent in the future.” STAND plans to continue its efforts against conflict minerals by promoting the use of electronics made without conflict minerals on campus. STAND meets on Sundays at 4:30 p.m. in Gelb Science Center.