Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Divestment from Western Sahara

I'm involved in Georgetown's chapter of STAND, a student organization that's trying to end the genocide in Darfur. The obvious question is why Western Sahara is all but unknown in the United States while Darfur and other atrocities like the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army attract hundreds of students and journalists to their causes? I think it's because Darfur and the LRA are immediate humanitarian crises, while the Western Sahara is a slow-moving tragedy, with no mounted janjaweed or kidnapped children.

But that's not today's post. Today's post is about divestment. In STAND, I'm in the divestment campaign, which is trying to get the District of Columbia government and DC universities to sell their stocks in companies that support the Sudanese government. It's the antithesis of sexy, but I think it's one of the most effective techniques for pressuring Sudan.

If it's so good, what is being done about Western Saharan divestment? Not much, from what I can read. Limited divestment campaigns seem to have been successful, as with TGS-Nopec or Kerr-McGee. There hasn't, however, been a wide move to divest from all companies dealing in the Western Sahara, probably because it's difficult to separate non-resource activities in Western Sahara with deals in Morocco (the American Free Trade Agreement that specifically does not include the Western Sahara notwithstanding).

I'm not sure if a divestment campaign would be a good idea, or even what if it should just apply to Western Sahara or all Morocco. For now, I think limited divestment aimed at the phosphate and oil companies that seek to steal Saharawi resources is the best tactic.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think that the Western Sahara question is unkown in the US. The US government has been involved in this conflict since decades and it has hosted negociations between Morocco and Polisario Front. Polisario is a group based in Algeria that revendicate the independance of Western Sahara.
    Regularly, both moroccans and polisario send delegations to the US including the Congress to defend their point of vue regarding the Western Sahara.
    But I agree that the US public, comparing to the governement, is not well aware of the details of the Western Sahara issue.