Amnesty International: Human Rights Groups and Investors Push Wall Street to Use Influence in Sudan to End War Against Civilians in Darfur
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 20, 2007
CONTACT: Amnesty International
Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150
or Ben Somberg, 212-633-4268
Human Rights Groups and Investors Push Wall Street to Use Influence in Sudan to End War Against Civilians in Darfur
NEW YORK - December 20 - A coalition of leading human rights organizations and socially responsible investment companies have jointly announced the filing of shareholder resolutions with six major banks and financial firms with the goal of engaging Wall Street to push Sudan to end the violence in Darfur and accept full deployment of U.N. peacekeepers.
The coalition wants financial companies and top investors in Sudan-linked companies to use their leverage in Sudan to demand an end to the conflict, which has left more than 200,000 civilians dead since 2003.
"Sudan doesn't need the United States to keep its economy going, but it does need foreign oil companies," said Denise Bell, Sudan country specialist for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "Major financial firms need to engage these oil companies aggressively and push them to use their unique influence with the Sudanese government."
Ninety percent of Sudan's export income is derived from oil, with Khartoum funneling the majority of this revenue into military expenditures. Sudan lacks the capital and expertise to efficiently extract its own oil, and relies almost entirely on foreign companies to operate this lucrative industry, which provided the government with over $4 billion in export revenue last year.
The oil industry in Sudan is dominated by four foreign companies: China National Petroleum Corporation of China, Petronas of Malaysia, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India, and Sinopec Corporation of China. While these are all state-owned enterprises, U.S. investors have significant funds invested through various publicly-held affiliates and subsidiaries.
The coalition has filed shareholder resolutions with six firms so far: Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, T. Rowe Price, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase.
In total, the coalition is calling on more than 40 top firms with holdings in these Sudan-linked companies to use their influence as major investors to pressure the Sudanese government to stop obstructing the deployment of the 26,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force.
The coalition includes Amnesty International USA, Genocide Intervention Network, Calvert Group, Ltd, Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management, the Philadelphia Comptroller's Office and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, among others (full list below).
Mark Hanis of the Genocide Intervention Network said: "We have seen evidence that companies will take meaningful steps if pressure is applied. The president of the Canadian mining company, La Mancha Resources, recently met with Sudan's Minister of Energy & Mining to encourage the government to fully deploy U.N. peacekeepers, and has made a commitment to refrain from new investment in the country until the peacekeeping force is on the ground. We would like to see the major oil companies operating in Sudan take similar steps, and investor pressure could help make that happen."
Bennett Freeman of the Calvert Group, Ltd. said: "The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) guidelines stipulate that U.S. companies can't do business with Sudan, and many investors defend their inaction by pointing to this fact. However, OFAC does not prohibit investing in companies that do business with Sudan. We are trying to impress on these firms that the revenues they are enjoying from these investments are helping to fuel the suffering in Darfur."
The conflict in Darfur has created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. More than 200,000 Darfuri civilians have died, hundreds of thousands have been raped, tortured and kidnapped, and two-thirds of the population relies on humanitarian aid to survive. The conflict has scattered 2.5 million refugees in Darfur, eastern Chad, and northeastern Central African Republic.
The Sudanese armed forces and the government-backed Janjawid militia bear primary responsibility for systematic and widespread murder, rape, torture, abduction, looting, and forced displacement since 2003. Though direct government participation in human rights abuses in Darfur has recently subsided, the Janjawid remains active in Darfur and Eastern Chad, despite the negotiated Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). Civilians are increasingly at risk because of inter-rebel fighting due to deep divisions among the rebel groups concerning the DPA. More than 2 million civilians have been internally displaced by the conflict and more than 215,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Chad. Refugees are continued targets of Janjawid and Darfur rebel group activities in both Darfur and Eastern Chad.
On July 31, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1769, authorizing a peacekeeping force (UNAMID) for Darfur. Now, Sudan is obstructing and delaying the deployment; for example, by obstructing the deployment of non-African units and denying forces permission to fly at night, among other restrictions.
"Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has a record of signing international agreements and then obstructing their implementation. It is pressure -- both economic and political -- that will compel him to move forward with Resolution 1769, and companies operating in Sudan have an important role to play. We cannot allow huge institutional investors that have refused to act on Darfur to stand on the sidelines, acting as 'passive' investors," said Amnesty International's Denise Bell.
So far, the responses from investment firms to letters and meetings on Darfur have been wide-ranging. Twenty-eight firms -- almost half of them American -- have not responded at all. Five U.S. firms -- JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, T. Rowe Price and Morgan Stanley -- agreed to meet with the coalition.
"We are pleased that five of the largest U.S. investors agreed to meet with our coalition and hope it will lead to immediate and substantive action," said Bell. "But it is completely unacceptable that the majority of firms have responded with silence." A full status report of firms' responses and the text of the shareholder resolutions is available at www.amnestyusa.org/progress.
Shelley Alpern, Vice President at Trillium Asset Management, said: "Ideally, we hope to see action from these firms over the next few months, which would allow us to withdraw these resolutions before annual meetings in the spring. The situation in Darfur merits extraordinary and urgent action on all our parts, as individuals, as investors, and as business leaders."
Resolutions have been filed by Amnesty International USA, Calvert Group, Ltd., Marianist Province of the United States, Northstar Asset Management, Needmor Fund, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Brighton MA, Trillium Asset Management, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the Vermont State Treasury and Walden Asset Management.
Contact information for lead filers on shareholder resolutions:
Shareholder resolutions with Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch:
Trillium Asset Management is a Boston-based, socially responsible investment firm that manages $1 billion for individual and institutional clients.
Contact Shelley Alpern at 617-292-8026
Shareholder resolution with Citigroup:
Amnesty International is the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world, with nearly 2 million members.
Contact Amy O'Meara at 212-633-4288
Shareholder resolution with T. Rowe Price:
Walden Asset Management has $1.8B in assets under management and for 35 years has been a leader in Responsible Investing.
Contact Tim Smith at 617-726-7155
Shareholder resolution with Wells Fargo:
Calvert Group, Ltd. offers socially responsible mutual funds with 41 portfolios and more than $16 billion in assets under management.
Please contact Bennett Freeman at 301-951-4865
Members of the NGO-investor coalition
Amnesty International USA
Amnesty International Switzerland
Calvert Group, Ltd.
Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc.
Clean Yield Asset Management
Genocide Intervention Network
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility-Promoting Human Rights Working Group
Marianist Province of the United States
Northstar Asset Management
Office of Controller, City of Philadelphia
Shikaya (South Africa)
Society of Threatened Peoples-Germany
Society of Threatened Peoples-Switzerland
Sudan Divestment Task Force
Sudan Divestment UK
The Aegis Trust
Trillium Asset Management
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Walden Asset Management
Info on joint sign-on letter at www.amnestyusa.org/signonletter
Progress report on company responses at www.amnestyusa.org/progress