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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lack of Money Can Improve the World

A penny saved is a penny earned.

Many actions can be taken to end the brutal genocide that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and as displaced millions, for no simple or apparent cause.  One of these many actions is called divestment.

Simply, divestment is the opposite of investment! Divestment means to sell off, commonly used in the business world, it often refers to selling off part of a company that isn’t doing well. In the social/political realm it has a different meaning. It refers more to a boycott mentality, boycotting certain investments and selling off stocks in a company to pressure a government to change a policy or to force regime change.

It was first used in the 1980’s to end apartheid in South Africa. Since then it has been used in conjunction with campaigns targeting North Ireland, Myanmar, Cuba, and Israel.

Most recently this tactic has been one part of the campaign to end the genocide in Darfur.

The best resource for divestment related to Sudan is aptly the Sudan Divestment Taskforce. The website also gives you specific instructions to make sure your investments aren’t supporting the genocide. They are also behind the rally earlier this year to get Indiana to divest public funds from supporting the genocide.

Divestment needs to be done very strategically and with precision described as similar to that of a surgeon. This is important so that ordinary citizens of Sudan aren’t impacted, as is common in full-force economic boycotts. The model being used by SDT engages companies that are directly or indirectly helping the Sudanese government perpetuate genocide. Only if a company refuses to make changes through shareholder interaction does the divestment occur.

Thirty-nine states within the US already have a campaign for divestment started and nineteen states have already divested. This includes the great state of Indiana! Mitch Daniels signed the divestment into law on May 3, 2007. This divests state pension plans from related organizations. Many private universities have done the same thing. Also, I believe all of the presidential candidates have made sure their portfolios were divested.

One more important item of note is the Fidelity Out of Sudan Campaign. Investment company, Fidelity was specifically targeted because Fidelity is one of the largest investment firms in the country and they had a significant investment in related genocide-related businesses. Earlier this year Fidelity did divest 91% of its US holdings in PetroChina, one of the biggest divestment targets. We need to continue to pressure Fidelity and other business to ensure 100% divestment from genocide-related business.

If you are fortunate to have investments whether personally or through your place of work, you should talk to someone about divestment. You can begin doing research and use the Taskforce's SCREENING TOOL which can be used to screen your portfolio.

On a final note: Divestment is working. A Reuters news service article written Sunday indicated that investment in Sudan has significantly decreased in the years since the Divestment campaign started.

This was taken from my presentation about divestment from last night's meeting of the Indianapolis Save Darfur.


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