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The Darfur Crisis:
The Way You Invest Matters
Since 2003, the region of Darfur in western Sudan has suffered from atrocities carried out by government-backed militias. These have included the mass murder of women and children, the destruction of villages, and the displacement of millions of Sudanese. The ongoing conflict in Darfur is the only one in the world officially designated as genocide.
Sudan has experienced many years of civil war. In 2003, following attacks by rebels against government military installations, the Sudanese military used armed militia known as Janjaweed to target ethnic groups from which the rebels drew support. Over 400 villages were destroyed, and as many as 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed between 2003 and 2005.
Despite a 2006 peace accord, fighting between the government and rebel groups continues. In recent years, bandits and looters have taken advantage of the chaos in Darfur. The Sudanese government has hindered the deployment of international peacekeepers, expelled humanitarian aid groups from the region, and failed to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity. The President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al Bashir faces charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court.
In January 2011, in a historic and moving public referendum, the people of Southern Sudan voted to secede. Experts considered the process to be fair and not marred by human rights abuses. According to human right groups, however, the situation in Darfur deteriorated before and after the referendum. Despite the presence of UNAMID, the United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force, Sudanese government forces clashed with rebels, and human rights violations including rape continued in camps for displaced people and elsewhere.
What Investors Can Do
Investors have a variety of tools at their disposal when corporations are implicated in human rights violations. Some have argued that it is essential to divest from companies doing business in regions where abuses are taking place, while others believe it is possible to effect more positive change by remaining engaged with those companies and pressing them to improve their own performance and exert their influence on the governments where they do business. Many other investors unfortunately choose to ignore these issues, believing that their actions cannot make a difference.
In Sudan, where abuses have risen to the level of genocide, and where the government — and particularly its military budget, which finances the genocide — depends upon oil revenues, the argument for divestment is particularly strong.
We believe that investors have a special role to play in addressing this crisis, and that a combination of targeted divestment and engagement is appropriate.
Learn more about Domini’s response to the crisis in Darfur.
To find out more about the situation in Darfur and what you can do to help, we encourage you to visit the websites of the following organizations: