Posted on February 25, 2007
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The JCPA is deeply concerned and outraged by the ongoing tragedy in Darfur. The U.S. Congress, State Department, and President, as well as other world leaders, have recognized the situation as genocide. The JCPA passed resolutions calling upon communities to take a number of actions that urge the United States government and the international community to help stop the genocide and provide humanitarian assistance. These efforts should be pursued urgently.
The crisis in Darfur is an extreme case whereby a government is responsible for a genocidal campaign against part of its own population. The Janjaweed militia has brutally murdered tens of thousands of civilians in Darfur, with the encouragement and active support of the Sudanese government. Two and half million people out of Darfur’s total population of 6 million have been forced from their homes into internal camps and other squalid places of refuge. Another 300,000 have fled to neighboring Chad. More than 400,000 people have died from violence, disease, and other conditions related to forced displacement and insufficient access to humanitarian assistance.
JCPA, in a 2003 resolution, opposed the use of politically motivated boycotts and other economic measures in general unless all other means of resolving the situation have been exhausted. Khartoum has been largely impervious to political pressure. A targeted approach to divestment along with intensive diplomatic efforts would deprive the Sudanese government of resources in needs to continue its genocide and exert significant pressure on the government of Sudan to change its behavior.
Recently, a number of states, such as California, Illinois, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine, and Connecticut have passed legislation calling for state funds to be divested from Sudan. At the moment, a campaign is underway, in more than 75 states, cities, and universities, calling for a targeted divestment of funds from companies doing business with the Sudanese government. Already, dozens of universities and cities, including Brown University and the city of Philadelphia have divested from Sudan using this approach.
Targeted divestment is the removal of investments in companies that are directly or indirectly helping the Sudanese government to perpetuate genocide. Since the ultimate intent of Sudan divestment is to protect the victims of genocide, it is important to tailor divestment to have maximal impact on the government of Sudan’s behavior and minimal harm to innocent Sudanese (and to the financial health of institutional portfolios in the US). Divestment should therefore be targeted to those companies that have a business relationship with the government or a government-created project, impart minimal benefit to the country’s underprivileged, and have implemented no significant corporate governance policy regarding the Darfur situation. Such targeted divestment implicitly excludes companies involved in agriculture, production and distribution of consumer goods, or engaged solely in the provision of goods and services intended to relieve human suffering or to promote welfare, health, religious and spiritual activities, and education.
As an institution divests from companies that meet targeted divestment criteria, demand for offending companies’ stock falls and the price of its shares decline. Share price is further reduced by the presence of additional divestment campaigns, many of which are already in progress. To protect the value of shareholder investments, offending company executives would convey to the Sudanese government that perpetuation of genocide in Darfur is making the country an undesirable place to do business. As a result, either government behavior would change (in order to keep much-needed businesses in Sudan) or offending companies would leave Sudan, thereby withdrawing money that is now being used to purchase military equipment for the genocide. Withdrawal of business investments from Sudan would simultaneously create an economic penalty for genocide and reduce the Sudanese government’s ability to fund the campaign.
A campaign to divest from Talisman Energy, which was known to be helping Sudan in its civil war with the South, caused their stock to drop by one third and forced them out of Sudan. This divestment campaign, along with sustained diplomatic efforts, hastened the Sudan government’s peace agreement with the South in 2005 and is illustrative of how divestment affects the Sudanese government’s behavior.
Therefore, the JCPA calls on communities to support the campaign calling for a targeted divestment in Sudan as led by the Sudan Divestment Task Force, which has identified the companies that will be targeted. With witnesses to the Holocaust thankfully still living among us, it is incumbent that we do all that is in our power to stop this generation’s genocide so that we may actually live to witness, “never again.”