Thursday, September 06, 2007


Divest for Darfur is a national campaign to encourage investment firms, especially JP Morgan, Franklin Templeton, Fidelity Investments, Capital Group (American Funds), and Vanguard, to withdraw investments from companies that help fund genocide in Darfur in particular the PetroChina Co.

Yesterday the Save Darfur Coalition publicly kicked off their new divestment campaign targeting the above name companies.

If successful the activists said they hope that the pressure of the US companies would in turn cause the Chinese to use their weight as the largest buyers of Sudanese oil to press for peace in Darfur.

Oil provides up to 90 percent of Sudan's export earnings. Activists say up to 70 percent of this revenue is spent on the military.

"Sudan's government is susceptible to economic pressure," Adam Sterling, director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force told IPS. "Yet, it has faced little such pressure over Darfur."

"The American people do not want to invest in genocide," Zahara Heckscher, divestment campaign manager at the Save Darfur Coalition, said Wednesday as coalition members said they would target the five investment firms with a mix of negative advertising, protest, and investor pressure.

"Together these companies touch far more than 60 million households in the United States and hold nearly $8 billion worth of PetroChina stock," said Eric Cohen, chairman of the Boston-based Investors Against Genocide group.

U.S. firms are prohibited from investing directly in Sudan under economic sanctions imposed by Washington in 1997. They may, however, invest in foreign companies that do business in Sudan. Darfur activists said there are 500 such companies worldwide.

Since July the European Parliament has encouraged European firms to divest.

Can a divestment campaign work. Supporters look to what happened in South Africa as an example to say that it can.

As was the case with South Africa, Sudan's wealth is concentrated. It is swimming in petrodollars, thanks significantly to China, which buys more than half of its oil exports. Khartoum spends upwards of 70% of its oil profits on its military, armed mostly by purchases from China.

But let's not just blame China alone.

Engineer Live reports China has the most significant interests in Sudan and has invested billions in building the oil industry up from the ground, but it has also been joined by India and Malaysia. The Greater Nile Petroleum Oil Co. (GNPOC), a joint venture between the China National Petroleum Corp. (40 per cent), Malaysia's Petronas (30 per cent), India's ONGC (25 per cent), and national oil company Sudapet (5 per cent), is the key player.

The following was taken from the web site of the Sudan Tribune.

Save Darfur coalition targets more US investment firms

Darfur activists on Wednesday launched a campaign to pressure five major U.S. investment firms to divest from companies they say help fund genocide in the Sudan.

The Save Darfur Coalition hopes to persuade Franklin Templeton, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), American Funds, Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group to divest from PetroChina Co. (PTR), the listed arm of state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. The coalition previously put a spotlight on Warren Buffett and Fidelity for their holdings of the stock.

The five firms were selected because they are "the largest U.S. mutual-fund companies with investments in PetroChina," said Zahara Heckscher, campaign manager for Divest for Darfur, a campaign of the Save Darfur Coalition, which is made up of about 180 organizations.

The firms collectively have about $4.9 billion invested in PetroChina, according to the divestment campaign. Human-rights groups have focused attention on PetroChina, saying it is connected to Sudan’s rulers and a brutal campaign of genocide.

Investment firms said they are abiding by U.S. law and their fiduciary responsibilities to act on behalf of their investors. U.S. companies aren’t allowed to do business in Sudan, but they are permitted to invest in foreign firms with operations there.

Anne Crowley, a spokeswoman for Fidelity Investments, said that "Fidelity Funds in the U.S. has significantly less in PetroChina than it had at the beginning of the year," but that change wasn’t because of the campaign.

"Fidelity does not tell its fund managers how or when to buy any stock," she said.

As of July 31, Fidelity Investments had about $60 million of PetroChina stock in the Fidelity Southeast Asian Fund and Fidelity Advisory Emerging Asia Fund.

Fidelity International Ltd., a separate company headquartered in Bermuda, has investments in PetroChina.

John Woerth, a spokesman for Vanguard Group, said three Vanguard funds "have exposure to these stocks, two of which are passively managed index funds." The funds are Vanguard Energy Fund, Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund and Vanguard Emerging Markets Index Fund.

"In managing these funds, we are obligated to track the funds’ underlying target benchmarks," he said.

He said investors could choose the Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund, which has a socially responsible benchmark that filters for social, humanitarian and environmental issues.

The other three companies didn’t have any immediate comment.

When Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA, BRKB) and its chief executive, Buffett, were criticized by the coalition, the company said it had seen "no records, including the various materials we have received from pro-divestment groups, that indicate PetroChina has operations in Sudan." The company said PetroChina’s parent, owned 100% by the Chinese government, does business in the Sudan, but that PetroChina exerts no control over its parent company.

The Darfur divestment campaign, modeled in spirit on the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, plans to run print and television advertisements, gather petition signatures, and take other steps to pressure investment firms, said Heckscher. It is targeting specific companies it says do business in the Sudan, not all investments in Sudan.

Many firms managing socially responsible funds have adopted an investment model recommended by the coalition. A list compiled by the coalition is at

"Americans do not want their family savings invested in genocide," said Eric Cohen, chair of Investors Against Genocide.

Cohen said 20 states and more than 50 universities have begun to divest from Sudan. He said there is "tremendous market opportunity" for firms that divest because "Americans don’t want to be connected" to companies with investments in Darfur.

As many as 400,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million have been displaced by genocide in Darfur, said Heckscher.

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