This Genocide Prevention Month, as we reflect on what it will take to fulfill the promise made following the Holocaust saying “Never Again,” all of us at United to End Genocide recognize that changing U.S. government policies is necessary but not a sufficient step to prevent and end genocide. From Sudan to Burma and Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we cannot overlook the role that corporations and investors play in enabling or preventing genocide and mass atrocities.
Money can fuel conflict, giving corporations massive influence in conflict-affected areas. Following the money and leveraging the power of financial investments has been a valuable tool in movements ranging from anti-apartheid to tobacco control to environmental protection, and it remains vital in the movement to end genocide and mass atrocities.
That’s the underpinning for United to End Genocide’s Conflict Risk Network (CRN). CRN is a network of institutional investors, financial service providers and related stakeholders calling on corporate actors to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights and take steps that support peace and stability in areas affected by genocide and mass atrocities.
By coordinating and conducting engagement on behalf of financial institutions, CRN harnesses the collective weight of more than $3 trillion in assets when encouraging corporate behavior that reduces conflict risk. Our 100 members include pension funds, some of the world’s largest asset management firms, government entities, university endowments, foundations, financial service providers and socially responsible investment firms.
CRN and our predecessor program have been producing well respected research on companies operating in Sudan since 2006. We’ve built depth of expertise on key business sectors including oil, mining and electrical power, which perpetrators of mass atrocities and genocide have particularly exploited to generate wealth and political power. CRN’s research and engagement have persuaded more than 12 major corporations, including La Mancha Resources Inc. and Schlumberger, to adopt recommendations for appropriate conduct in Sudan.
As United to End Genocide has expanded its scope of work beyond Sudan, CRN has also extended its reach to expose and pressure corporate enablers in Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma. CRN is raising investor awareness of the risky business of operating in conflict-affected areas, and of practical steps investors can and must take to mitigate risks and improve conditions on the ground.
Investing money in the oil industry in Sudan, Burma or Syria or the mining industry in DRC is fraught with danger—danger for the people and communities who suffer human rights abuses and impoverishment when their natural resources are extracted, and danger of financial, legal and moral accountability for investors who associate with the perpetrators of violence and mass atrocities.
CRN is also investing significant resources to understand the risks and opportunities for investors in the information and technology sector. It’s clear that technology can play a positive or negative role in conflict-affected areas. Technology has been used to support free expression and free association and played a role in toppling autocratic regimes in the Arab Spring. However, despots like Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad have also used this sector for surveillance, cutting off phone and internet access, and putting civilians in danger.
Now is a critical moment for CRN to engage corporations operating in conflict-affected countries and strengthen synergy with United to End Genocide’s broader policy, campaigning and communications work. As CRN expands and organizes an informed base of investors committed to ending corporate complicity in genocide and mass atrocities, United to End Genocide’s grassroots campaigning can create new incentives for corporations to respect human rights and support peace and security in conflict regions.
Everyone has connections to significant investments: college students can leverage their university endowments, people of faith can work through their faith communities or denominations, workers and other grassroots activists can look to municipal, state and union pension funds or socially responsible investors in their communities. Let these institutional investors know about CRN and its role in the movement to end genocide and mass atrocities. And if you are an institutional investor or fund manager, find out more on CRN’s website or by contacting CRN’s staff team.