Five years on from the beginning of the crisis, with at least 200,000 people dead and 2.5 million still displaced, we are at a crossroads. The recent UN Resolution authorising a hybrid AU/UN force of 26,000 peacekeepers to be deployed by the end of the year is promising, but the international community still needs to remain cautious and keep Sudan to its commitment to comply.
The fact that this is the first resolution that China has signed at the Security Council is, undoubtedly, a massive step. China is Khartoum’s largest foreign investor and strongest international supporter. The oil that China receives from Sudan is helping to fuel its booming economy, while China is able to offer Sudan interest-free loans and protection at the United Nations as a permanent member of the Security Council.
At the UNSC China has successfully blocked measures to introduce international sanctions against Khartoum’s leaders, an effective arms embargo, and the previous deployment of a robust United Nations protection mission.
This is also the first time that Sudan itself has agreed in principle to the deployment of a UN force to Darfur. So the signs are all optimistic, at least on paper. However there are some caveats that we need to take into account when considering whether Resolution 1769 is really to be a turning point for the people of Darfur.
Firstly, the Khartoum government have a long history of reneging on deals they have signed. Secondly, at the insistence of China, any reference to sanctions have been removed from the resolution, meaning that there would be no consequences for Sudan should they fail to comply, or comply fully, with the UN Resolution. Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy have both made speeches in favour of sanctions in the event of non-compliance, but any such moves would undoubtedly be blocked by China at the UN, forcing the EU into unilateral sanctions, or none at all.
This is where divestment can make the difference; it adds economic pressure to the political pressure already being applied to Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur.
The campaign of ethnic cleansing that Khartoum continues to wage against black Africans in Darfur is expensive. It costs large sums of money to sustain the operations of the Janjaweed militia, Sudanese army and airforce in Darfur. Sudan’s government revenues come from several sources: internal taxes, development aid, and revenue from external trade, especially in oil. In Sudan these sectors, especially oil, are supported by foreign expertise and investment, particularly from China, India and Malaysia, but also from the UK and other European countries.
Targeted divestment seeks to withdraw foreign involvement in those sectors that provide revenues directly to the Sudanese government and elite but do not benefit the wider population. It is careful to exclude sections of the economy that benefit the people of Sudan, such as agriculture, which employs roughly 80% of the workforce.
In practice, the targeted companies comprise mainly of oil extraction businesses such as PetroChina, Sinopec, Petronas, Lundin, and Oil and Natural Gas Company, which are supported by oil service companies such as Petrofac (UK), Weir Group (UK) Schlumberger and Reliance Industries.
The threat of withdrawal of foreign investment from target companies operating in Sudan puts pressure on the government, and those companies themselves. Already, ABB of Switzerland, Siemens of Germany, CHC Helicopters of Canada, and Rolls Royce of the UK have pulled out of operating in the country due to concerns over Darfur. Fund managers report that investing in companies operating in Sudan is increasingly seen as risky.
Divestment has other advantages. Often companies who would otherwise not have done so introduce humanitarian programmes as a response to engagement by shareholders or campaigners. This ensures that the benefits of foreign investment can be felt by all, not simply by a government elite located in Khartoum, and that issues of Corporate Social Responsibility become embedded in a company’s working practices.
The divestment campaign is gearing up for a massive push to ensure that Sudan complies with the new UN Resolution, and that full deployment of the 26,000 peacekeepers needed happens by December 31st. To be part of that campaign please visit www.darfurdivestment.org or email email@example.com.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.