where checking accounts rebuild communities
Back to homepageInstitutional ReportsSRI Financial Professionals DirectoryToolsNewsSRI Performance and TrendsAbout Us   

November 08, 2010
Investors Ask Companies in Sudan to Respect Human Rights
    by Robert Kropp

In advance of a January 2011 vote on independence, investor members of the Conflict Risk Network calls on telecommunications and oil and gas companies operating in Sudan to ensure they do not infringe on human rights.

In the 22 years preceding the January 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), it is estimated that more than 2 million people died and 4 million displaced in civil conflict in Sudan. As a result of the CPA, a vote is scheduled for January 2011, in which South Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the North and form a new nation.

According to the Conflict Risk Network (CRN), a project of the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-NET), "It is widely predicted that southern Sudan, which holds most of Sudanís oil, will secede from the north following a referendum on independence."

However, the government of Sudan, which is led by Omar al-Bashir, has, according to the
Save Darfur Coalition, "obstructed preparations for the vote and sent signals that it may not accept a vote for independence." Al-Bashir has twice been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, and faces allegations of three counts of genocide against ethnic groups in the Darfur region of South Sudan.

The Save Darfur Coalition merged this month with GI-NET, creating " the largest anti-genocide organization that combined, boasts a membership base of over 800,000 committed activists globally, an unparalleled nationwide student movement, and a network of institutional investors with over $700 billion in assets under management," according to a press release.

CRN provides quarterly reports on companies with operations in Sudan, provides corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards based on consultations with the
United Nations Global Compact and other organizations, and leverages the membership of its institutional investors to engage with companies operating in Sudan.

Last week, the investor members of CRN sent letters to telecommunications and oil and gas companies operating in Sudan, "calling on them to take steps to ensure they do not infringe on human rights" as the country prepares for the January referendum, according to a press release.

Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy at
Calvert Asset Management, a CRN member, stated, "The potential for violence, instability and human rights violations around Sudan's referendum process challenges companies operating in the country not to become complicit in such violations."

fact sheet issued by CRN describes the two-fold engagement undertaken by the investor group, which, along with Calvert, includes Boston Common Asset Management and Domini Social Investments, among others.

Stating that "mobile technology is vital for the exchange of information in Sudan," the investors are engaging with Zain Group and MTN Group, whose combined share of the mobile telecommunications market in Sudan is 80%. Both companies are said to have strong records of local community support; the fact sheet states, for instance, that "MTN piloted a program to reconnect refugees with their families in Sudan and Uganda."

Historically, however, telecommunications companies have been associated with violence in Sudan. In 2004, Sudatel, a state-run telecommunications company, deactivated cell towers immediately prior to attacks carried out by the government, thereby preventing villagers from warning each other of the impending violence.

CRN is requesting that the companies "take specific steps to respect human rights and support peace and stability during the referendum process."

The second engagement targets 18 companies in the oil and gas sector, including China National Petroleum Co. (CNPC), the parent company of PetroChina. According to a
2007 report by the Sudan Divestment Task Force of GI-NET, " With profits generated through production-sharing agreements with CNPC, the Sudanese government purchases assault helicopters, armored vehicles, and small arms from China." The UN determined in 2006 that most of the weapons used against civilians in Darfur were of Chinese origin.

Furthermore, according to the report, "Beijing's opposition to forceful international sanctions against Khartoumís leaders, an effective arms embargo, and the deployment of a robust United Nations protection mission make China a significant impediment to ending genocide in Darfur."

According to CRN, foreign oil companies doing business in Sudan have been investigated for human rights abuses, and face other legal and reputational risks as well.

For reasons such as those detailed above,
Investors Against Genocide (IAG) has advocated for divestment from PetroChina and other oil companies operating in Sudan, arguing that investors are overwhelmingly opposed to being financially connected to genocide, and would withdraw their investments from mutual funds that invested in companies complicit in genocide in Sudan.

Instead of divestment, the investor members of CRN are seeking to engage with the 18 oil companies named in the fact sheet, to ensure that the "companies prevent association with human rights abuses akin to those committed during Sudan's previous civil wars by security forces linked to oil consortia."

Melany Grout, Director of CRN, stated, "Local communities must not be caught in the crosshairs of fighting over consortium territory or oil infrastructure."

In addition to concerns regarding security, CRN has also requested that the oil companies improve transparency related revenues. A
2009 report from Global Witness found significant discrepancies between oil figures published by the government of Sudan and those published by CNPC. According to the 2005 peace agreement, oil revenues must be shared between the Sudanese government and South Sudan. As Global Witness observed, "If the oil figures published by the Khartoum government aren't right, the division of the money from that oil between north and south Sudan won't be right."


| Reports | SRI Financial Professionals Directory | Tools | News | SRI Performance and Trends | About Us | Contact
© SRI World Group, Inc. - All rights reserved
Terms of use - Privacy Policy - OneReportTM Network