Here’s a nasty little progression currently at work that links the UK high street to the genocide in Darfur.
Your money goes into your Barclays bank account.
Barclays invests your money in a Chinese oil company.
The oil company works the Sudanese oil fields.
The Sudanese government takes its cut of the oil revenues.
The Sudanese government funds Janjaweed fighters committing atrocities in Darfur.
This really is the sinister underbelly of globalization, where activities in one part of the world have indirect, but still very real effects on the other side of the world. I’ve mentioned Barclays, but any number of companies, banks, pension funds and individual investors are implicated, even the Church of England. But we’re not powerless in the face of this complex financial conundrum. The Darfur Divestment campaign launched a couple of weeks ago, and I recommend checking it out at darfurdivestment.org It’s an initiative of the Aegis Trust, an anti-genocide group, and it calls for immediate targeted divestment for Darfur.
Targeted divestment is simply withdrawal of investment in support of a given cause. In this case it means pulling money out of companies that are paying revenues to the Sudanese government. This is mainly oil companies, as they provide 60% of the government’s funds. The campaign is careful not to target companies that are supporting agriculture or contributing usefully to the Sudanese people themselves. Like shareholder power mentioned before, divestment is another way of calling financial institutions to account. It’s a way of using money well, and demanding that ethics have a role in economic activity.