Urban Politics #268: City Retirement Board Divests in Sudan

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Today, December 3rd, the Board of Directors of the Seattle City Employees Retirement System (SCERS) voted unanimously to divest in companies that have business interests in Sudan.  This action follows a lengthy review and analysis of the geo-political and social issues affecting the people of Sudan and specifically those suffering from genocide in the Darfur region of that country. After the review the Board decided that the employees’ retirement fund would not be adversely affected by adopting this policy. Most importantly we have now joined twenty other cities, listed below, in the effort to stop genocide in the African nation of Sudan.

Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the Retirement Board, said that while the retirement board is not heavily invested in companies doing business in Sudan, it is gratifying that the board, through passage of a new financial policy, was able to take this step.

Over a year ago, in April of 2007, I requested the retirement board consider adopting a divestment policy for Sudan. When I was invited to present before the board later in the fall of that year, I spoke of the need for the city to do something to address the situation in Sudan, where at that time over 400,000 civilians had been killed and another 2.5 million were forced from their homes. The situation has not improved since then.

Divestment policies like Seattle’s, and those from other municipalities and states, will hopefully move the Sudanese government to halt the terror tactics deployed against the inhabitants within the Darfur region. Pressure from the United States has worked in the past. When the US levied sanctions against Sudan in 1997, the Sudanese government dropped its support for terror and cooperated with the US on counter-terrorism.

While it is true that this is not a “local” issue, it is one that allows in some small way an opportunity for Seattle residents to reach out across the globe in recognition that the slaughter of the innocent should not go unnoticed.

Cities in the United States that have adopted similar Sudan divestment policies:

Baltimore, MD; Charlottesville, VA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Denver,
CO; Edina, MN; Los Angeles, CA; MetroWest, NJ; Miami Beach, FL; Miami
Gardens, FL; New Haven, CT; Newton, MA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL;
Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Providence, RI; San Francisco, CA; St.
Paul, MN; Washington D.C; and Worcester, MA.


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