US Presbyterians back disinvestment campaign on Sudan

By staff writers
24 Sep 2007

The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly Council (GAC) approved action during its meeting at the end of last week supporting the denomination's campaign of phased selective divestment of certain multinational corporations doing business with the government of Sudan.

The PC(USA)'s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) was urged to continue its engagement of companies in which the denomination owns stock and are recommended for "ongoing engagement" by the Washington-based Sudan Divestment Task Force.

The GAC recommended that MRTI, which monitors PC(USA)-related investments to ensure they are socially responsible and consistent with General Assembly policies, continue ongoing engagement with these companies through correspondence in coordination with the task force.

The corporate engagement campaign is designed to pressure certain companies to leave Sudan, where the government is accused of arming Janjaweed militia blamed for widespread rapes and killings of Darfur civilians.

The PC(USA) has been involved in the Sudan for sometime through partnerships with Sudanese churches and ecumenical bodies, mission personnel, presbytery partnerships, the Sudan Mission Network, public policy advocacy and corporate social responsibility through MRTI.

MRTI's work in Sudan began in earnest in 2003 at the beginning of a war led by the Sudanese government against people of indigenous beliefs and Christian faith in southern Sudan.

More recently the war against civilians in Darfur by the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed has gained international attention and has been labeled a genocide by the United States government.

The conflict in Darfur, which has left between 200,000 to 400,000 people dead with hundreds of thousands displaced, has raised questions about investments in companies doing business in Sudan. Such business dealings invariably benefit the Sudanese government.

The issue has come to light especially on college and university campuses and among a few religious institutions that have in the past used a divestment strategy as a form of protest.

At the PC(USA)'s 217th General Assembly in 2006, two overtures were considered that called for the initiation of a process of "phased, selective divestment" related to companies doing business in Sudan. In recognition of the urgent nature of the situation, the GA authorized the GAC to take action on MRTI recommendations prior to next summer's General Assembly in San Jose, CA.

The 18 companies listed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force for ongoing engagement, in order of most concern, are: Videocon, PTT Exploration and Production (A.K.A.), Pertamina (PT Pertamina Persero) Nam Fatt, Bollore Group, Man AG, ICSA, Sojitz, Concordia Maritime, Alcatel-Lucent, Petrobras (Petroleo Brasileiro), White Nile Petroleum, Nippon Yusen (NYK Line), Marubeni Corp., Total SA, Schlumberger, Rolls Royce, and Cummins Inc.

Among these, stock is held by the PC(USA) in only four companies: Petrobras, Total, Schlumberger and Rolls Royce.

Total currently owns an oil block but is not actively using it. Schlumberger has pledged "substantial action" that merits continued monitoring, and Rolls Royce is winding down its Sudan operations and requires follow up until the withdrawal is complete. More information is needed about the operations of Petrobras, according to the Sudan Divestment Task Force.

MRTI will pursue engagement with these four to assist in the effort to clarify that the companies are not supporting the government's genocide practices.

The GAC authorized MRTI to provide a link on its Web page to the Web site of the Sudan Divestment Task Force, http://www.sudandivestment.org, where congregations, Presbyterian-related institutions and individual members can obtain information about companies involved in Sudan.

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