More On Averting Genocide

Following up on my earlier post related to the ongoing genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur and the ways those of us in the U.S. who are concerned about this conflict might take action to avert further atrocities, today’s New York Times has an article on a burgeoning campaign to encourage universities and municipalities to divest themselves of assets in companies doing business in Sudan. This campaign appears very similar to that which occurred in the 1980’s in response to apartheid in South Africa. An excerpt from the article by Philip Rucker follows:

Student-Driven Sudan Divestment Campaign Grows

NEW HAVEN, April 25 — Universities across the country have divested themselves of endowment assets in companies doing business in Sudan, reacting to pressure from students to take a financial stand against the violence in the Darfur region.

At least seven universities have gotten rid of some of their assets, including the 10-campus University of California system, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Brown. Divestment campaigns are under way at several other universities, including the University of Maryland, Indiana University and the University of Virginia.

The campaign is organized by a national student-led group, Sudan Divestment Task Force, and is reminiscent of a campaign in the 1980′s when student-led groups lobbied 55 universities to remove money from companies affiliated with the South African apartheid regime.

The Sudan campaign also aims at states and municipalities. Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon have approved divestment, and legislation is pending in several other states.

Earlier this month, Providence, R.I., became the first American city to authorize divestment. Last week, New Haven announced that it would strip municipal employees’ pension funds of investments in companies doing business with the Sudanese government.

“It can’t just be the sort of piecemeal one-or-two companies symbolic approach,” said Daniel Millenson, 19, a Brandeis University freshman and executive director of the task force. “It needs to be several universities, states, whatever, all passing the same kind of divestment solutions.”

Students pressing for divestment are holding rallies, collecting signatures, meeting with administrators to present research against the Sudanese government and writing opinion articles in campus newspapers.

The task force is planning a bus trip to Washington on Thursday for about 500 students to participate in a day of lobbying on Friday and a protest on Sunday. They want troops sent to Darfur.

Mr. Millenson and other student leaders concede that the effect of divestment is largely symbolic at this stage. They hope that eventually the companies’ stock values will drop, leading them to re-evaluate their business ties to the Sudanese government, which has supported militias in a conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and that the Bush administration has labeled genocide. [full text]

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2 responses

  1. Many thanks to David Segal, Providence Councilmember who sponsored the legislation in Providence to divest from the Sudan. Here is a link to his blog post at rifuture.org announcing the passage of the legislation which is, indeed, having a ripple effect.

    http://rifuture.org/blog/?p=1695

  2. Daniel Millenson

    Although the article does not discuss this (as it was in the education section), the Task Force does a ton of work on states (I’d say it comprises about half our work). Along with Jason Miller (UCSF), our National Policy Director, I wrote the Providence bill, which has now been introduced verbatim in the Rhode Island state legislature and in similar form in California (where it’s passed 2 committees already). The bill will also be introduced in some form in several other states over the next few months. The Task Force believes that targeted divestment, which only hits the most egregious offenders, is the best way to ensure maximum effectiveness in hurting the Sudanese government, while having a minimal impact on civilians and state finances.

    Our website, http://www.sudandivestment.org, will be launched in the next couple weeks.

    –Daniel Millenson
    Executive Director
    Sudan Divestment Task Force
    dmillenson@sudandivestment.org

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