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UUSC celebrates victory in Darfur divestment campaign
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
In a major victory for activists in the Sudan divestment campaign, TIAA-CREF has become the first large U.S. investment management company to sell its shares of Asian energy companies because of their failure to take meaningful steps to help end the genocide in Darfur.
The action follows a strong warning by TIAA-CREF last March that it would divest from companies that ignored its request to help end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and that took no action by the end of 2009. The divestment action was announced Monday, January 4, the first business day of the new year.
"We always believe engagement is far more effective than divestment," said Hye-Won Chli, TIAA-CREF's head of corporate governance. "However, in this situation, engagement was not effective, and we believed the gravity and magnitude of the situation in the Sudan required a different response."
UUSC President Charlie Clements said he is delighted with the decision by TIAA-CREF, which is the organization's pension-fund provider, for its strong commitment to genocide-free investing. He commended the firm for its leadership in the Sudan divestment campaign and for demonstrating its dedication to socially responsible investing.
"This decision by TIAA-CREF reaffirms our belief that divesting from the Sudanese genocide is not only morally correct but also financially sound," said Clements, who urged TIAA-CREF three years ago to divest its holdings in firms doing business with Sudan. "The seven-year-old genocide in Darfur is an issue of fundamental importance to UUSC and to the world. We believe that targeted divestment is an important tool in helping to end this genocide. "
The shares being sold total $42.7 million in holdings with four giant multinational corporations — PetroChina, CNPC Hong Kong, and Sinopec, all based in China, and Oil and Natural Gas Corp, based in New Delhi.
"Our decision to sell shares in these companies culminated a three-year effort to encourage them to end their ties to Sudan or attempt to end suffering there," said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., TIAA-CREF's chef executive.
UUSC is one of several human rights organizations that have been urging major U.S.-based financial services companies to divest from Sudan. "We believe that these multinational firms have a unique opportunity to send a message to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that there are financial consequences for his actions in supporting the ethnic cleansing that our own U.S. government has labeled genocide," stated Clements.
The action by TIAA-CREF follows intensive advocacy by Investors Against Genocide, a coalition of human rights organizations including UUSC that have targeted major investment firms to pressure them to use their influence to help end the seven-year-old genocide in Darfur.
UUSC activists also urged U.S. officials to pressure the Chinese government to use its influence with Sudan to stop the violence and bring peace to Darfur. China is Sudan's leading trade partner in its oil industry, thereby providing the government of Sudan with the economic resources needed to carry out violence against the people of Darfur. Moreover, China also is the major military benefactor of Sudan, and is its largest supplier of small arms.