MOVEMENT TO DIVEST - Divestment Campaign for Sudan: Harvard Students Act
Divestment Campaign for Sudan: Harvard Students Act by Daniel J. Hemel and Zachary M. Seward October 25, 2004 - excerpt:
Sudan activists can claim a record of success in their past efforts to spur divestment.
Canada’s Talisman Energy came under heavy fire from activists two years ago for its stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project—the same joint venture with the Sudanese government that PetroChina’s parent company has undertaken.
Talisman held a 25 percent stake in the project, while the Chinese firm owns 40 percent of the venture.
In October 2002, Talisman sold its Sudan holdings to an Indian company for $766 million.
And in January of this year, BP Amoco sold its $1.65 billion stake in PetroChina. The move came on the heels of a four-year campaign by black churches and human rights groups in the U.S. to boycott Amoco stations in protest of BP’s links to Sudan—although BP’s decision to drop the shares was likely made due to economic considerations and not humanitarian concerns.
Meyer, who oversees Harvard’s $22.6 billion endowment, said in an interview that the University attempts to consider social issues in its investments.
“Overall, we try in all of our investment decisions to be pretty principled in the companies with which we deal, and I think we’re very successful at that,” Meyer said.
In 1990, the University divested its shares in tobacco companies following objections by students, faculty and alumni. Explaining the divestment in their annual report last year, Harvard’s Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility noted, among other reasons, “the desire not to be associated as a shareholder with companies engaged in significant sales of products that create a substantial and unjustified risk of harm to human health.”
Several activists contacted by The Crimson said PetroChina’s connection to the Sudanese regime warranted divestment under the University’s standards.
“Harvard is confronted with a stark choice,” wrote John Eibner, a London-based human rights activist affiliated with Christian Solidarity International, in an e-mail. “It can stand on the side of the slavers, ethnic cleansers and gang rapists of Sudan. Or it can stand in solidarity with the powerless, impoverished victims at a cost of only 0.02 percent of the total Harvard endowment.”
—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Zachary M. Seward can be reached at email@example.com.