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5/19/2005 06:18:00 PM | Niral Shah

Dartmouth and Divestment

For those of you who don't know, the Darfur Action Group is requesting that Dartmouth divest from Sudan. Since our decision to pursue divestment, we have conducted our own research into corporate activity in Sudan, and worked with the ACIR (Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility) to accomplish our goal. There's far more background information on this than anyone cares to know, so I'll sum things up.

We have a list of 88 corporations active in Sudan, four of which the College was invested in last quarter (Alcatel, Siemens, Volkswagen, and Bayer). In the fall, Dartmouth held stock in PetroChina, an oil company that Harvard recently divested from. As this term comes to an end, the ACIR is preparing to make a decision, reccomending divestment (and restraint from future investment) in some or all of these companies.

We divided the companies into 5 groups. The first is comprised of oil companies and military suppliers, and are considered directly complicit. The argument for military suppliers is pretty obvious. As for the oil companies, they provide Sudan's only source of revenue, paying up to 80% of oil revenues to the government in Khartoum in addition to massive royalty payments, and the need to keep control of Southern Sudan's oil fields has been a motivating factor in the Khartoum regime's harsh tactics. Without these companies, the regime would have no power.

The second group are companies that have large contracts to develop infrastructure. They accept payment from the regime, effectively endorsing its tactics, and generate revenue for the regime. The infrastructure they build almost exclusively is for the oil industry, and maybe the people of Khartoum. Also, if these companies were to halt their activities, it would provide significant incentive for a policy change in Khartoum.

The third group also provides services and products, almost exclusively to Khartoum, but does so independently, without a government contract, and on a much smaller scale. These companies pay high import tariffs to the Sudanese government, also generating revenue.

The fourth group consists of providers of essential services, such as baby formula, medicine and medical technology, as well as development funded by the UN or recognized and reliable development banks. (We don't want to divest from these).

The fifth group are companies that, despite all our googling and emailing and calling of various organizations and embassies - well, we don't know what the hell they do.

The difference between divesting from the first category versus the second and third is that, well, the first category is a clear cut moral obligation to stop the genocide. Their is debate on the remaining categories, regarding actual purposes of infrastructure and adverse effects on development and the population. Supporters of divestment during the anti-apartheid referred to this differentiation as fighting apartheid versus fighting the apartheid economy. The argument is that only the latter is effective, seeing that a successful divestment campaign amounts to a privatized version of sanctions.
The ACIR is still struggling with these distinctions and debating, but will likely reach some decision during a public forum next week, at least regarding the first category. Its all a little bit more complex than what I've written, but, I'm trying to keep this brief. The point is, we're attempting the most comprehensive research available with our limited resources, and of today's ACIR meeting, things are moving along quite swiftly. At least, compared to 15 year long divestment from South Africa.



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