The League of Women Voters of Hawaii very strongly supports HB 34 SD1, which, in the interest of humankind and to demonstrate Hawaii's opposition to the humanitarian crisis presently occurring in the Darfur Region of Sudan, requires divestment of Hawaii employees' retirement system (ERS) funds from companies that support the Sudanese government.
The litany of horror in the Darfur Region of Sudan is heartbreaking, and the estimated toll to date of 400,000 lost lives and 2.5 million displaced people is staggering. The United States, the international community, and hundreds of humanitarian and other organizations, all agree that genocide is occurring in Darfur. Despite calls from the international community that the Sudanese government put an end to these atrocities, the tragedy continues. We believe that economic pressure on the Sudanese government must be applied for every bit of traction it may gain in forcing an end to these tragic, unconscionable and inhumane acts.
The Sudanese divestment movement is working to withdraw financial support for companies that are directly or indirectly helping the Sudanese government. We agree with the approach that maximizes divestment's impact on the government of Sudan while minimizing unintended harmful effects on innocent Sudanese citizens and on the health of institutional investments.
Prohibiting the ERS to invest in companies that have active business operations with Sudan is but one step that can be taken to remedy this tragic situation. But it is an important step, and one that will show that Hawaii "walks its talk," taking real action to help bring this human tragedy to an end.
According to the Genocide Intervention Network, although no US companies are doing business in Sudan, many multinational companies are. While many of these companies are helping Sudan's citizens, a small subset are providing substantial revenue and cover to the government of Sudan's campaign of genocide. Tax dollars go to support city, state and university pensions, which invest this money in foreign companies -- many of which operate in Sudan. The worse of these companies provide no benefit to Sudanese civilians, merely extracting resources and paying off the genocidal government in Khartoum. This is the primary source of funding for the genocide in Darfur.
Pulling private investments out of these companies that support the Sudanese regime's genocidal activities allows state and private institutions, as well as individual investors, to throw their considerable economic weight behind the global effort to end the violence in Darfur.
For social and ethical reasons, Hawaii can and must condemn Sudan's genocide and the Sudanese government's involvement with state-sponsored terrorism. We believe this must be expressed in law as the will of the people of our state. HB 34 SD1 will accomplish that, which is why it is vital that it pass. Hawaii is among 19 states currently considering such legislation. The time to act is now. Let us move forward and join the seven states and numerous universities that have already divested.
We strongly urge you to pass HB 34 SD1, and thank you for the opportunity to testify in its support.