People Over Profit: How to Promote Peace in Congo this Valentine’s Day

Whether saying “I love you” or preparing to make that big commitment, a gift of jewelry can mean even more this Valentine’s Day. A new comprehensive survey of the jewelry retail industry, offers jewelry shoppers a way to make informed consumer choices and to support peace in war-torn Congo.

Tiffany & Co. and Signet Jewelers (parent company of retailers Zales, Jared, and Kay) are leading the way to help build a conflict-free gold trade and support mining communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Three other jewelry super-sellers, J.C. Penney, Cartier, and Target, are also taking important initial steps.

The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, is calling on consumers to make responsible jewelry shopping choices this Valentine’s Day. According to Enough’s report, consumer purchases, though half a world away, can have an important impact to help build peace and a conflict-free mining trade in Congo.

Rachel Finn, Advocacy Manager at the Enough Project, said: “By shopping to support the most actively engaged jewelry companies like Tiffany, Zales, Jared, and Kay, anyone giving a gift of gold jewelry can support peace and the development of a flourishing conflict-free gold trade in Congo.”

Holly Dranginis, Enough Project Policy Analyst, said: “We strongly encourage anyone buying gold jewelry to consider how their shopping choices can help to transform a brutal, criminalized trade into a responsible, flourishing enterprise.”

According to the UN, an estimated $400 million worth of gold per year is illicitly smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, generating profits that fund armed groups and commanders in Congo’s army responsible for atrocities, the abduction and forced conscription of child soldiers, and widespread sexual violence.

Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “Conflict gold is an issue of major moral significance today, but leading jewelers Signet and Tiffany are taking important steps to combat it. If other jewelers follow through and invest in responsible sourcing programs from Congo, it would help end a deadly trade.”

“For thousands of years, gold has represented love, tradition, wealth, beauty, and decadence. In the United States alone, these associations cause the gold jewelry industry to be worth more than five billion dollars annually. Halfway around the world, however, the extraction and smuggling of gold serves as an important means of funding for armed groups and army commanders in the deadliest conflict since World War II. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violent armed actors mine, tax, and smuggle gold and perpetrate widespread atrocities.” – Excerpt from the Enough Project’s report, “Going for Gold: Engaging the Jewelry Industry in Responsible Gold Sourcing in Africa’s Great Lakes Region.”

Learn more about Enough’s “Look Who’s Getting Engaged!” campaign: congogold.weebly.com