Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ELCA Middle East Network Newsletter highlights boycott, divestment and sanctions policies

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Peace Not Walls Campaign has issued its July 2010 Middle East Network Newsletter. There is a lot of information in this edition, including an important memo detailing ELCA policies regarding boycott, divestment, and sanctions and relevant actions from 2005 and 2007 churchwide assemblies. I've posted a few excerpts here, but do go to the link for the entire update.

Middle East Network Newsletter - July 9, 2010 - http://www.elca.org/~/media/Files/Our%20Faith%20in%20Action/Justice/Peace%20Not%20Walls/MENET/MENET%202010-07-09.pdf

ELCA Presiding Bishop meets with staff of National Security Council

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson met with Denis McDonough, chief of staff of the White House National Security Council, on July 1 to support the current U.S. administration in its efforts to take a principal role in achieving peace. Click
here to read the news story - http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-services/News/Releases.aspx?a=4571


ELCA policies re boycott, divestment, and sanctions and relevant actions from 2005 and 2007 churchwide assemblies
(This summary has been prepared by Dennis Frado, Director, Lutheran Office for World Community, and Pat Zerega, Director for Corporate Social Responsibility, Church in Society.)

Find background and documents for all relevant Churchwide assembly actions, including the 2005 Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine and 2007 and 2009 memorials - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/Background.aspx

In 2005, Churchwide Assembly called for: 6. stewarding financial resources-both U.S. tax dollars and private funds -in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land; and 7. giving generously to help ensure the continuation of the schools and other ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the humanitarian work of The Lutheran World Federation through Augusta Victoria Hospital and other ministries.

In 2007, Churchwide Assembly refined the call saying: 5. To call upon the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to underscore the call for economic initiatives by this church and its members in the "Peace, Not Walls" campaign.

Such initiatives, in consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, could include:
• purchasing of products from Palestinian providers and
• exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements. Also to be explored is the entire investment activity by this church. Examination of investments would exclude the option of divestiture.

In 2005 the Corporate Social Responsibility program developed a response to the Churchwide Assembly's action urging ELCA members to participate in the Peace Not Walls campaign. After study, the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility (ACCSR) recommended in November of 2006 (and subsequently adopted in the spring 2007) the following plan of action for the programs work:
+ Continue to exercise our weapons economic social criteria investment screen. + Continue the dialogue with Caterpillar on development of a human rights policy, expressing our continuing concern with the presence of their product in the Middle East hostilities and destruction of Palestinian homes.
+ Continue to review the possibility of approaching other companies on a human rights (resolution) basis.
+ Consider at the ACCSR the opportunities and limitations for fulfilling the mandate of the Peace Not Walls campaign relative to the stewardship of resources, specifically in the area of multinational corporations that have established facilities or operations in the Occupied Territories (as defined by the United Nations).

Whenever possible, this work would be undertaken with our ecumenical partners whenever their strategy is in line with our Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.

In April 2009 the ACCSR approved a guide for congregations, synods and Lutheran institutions on how to develop a Selective purchasing policy. One segment of that guide is around the Middle East - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Advocacy/Corporate-Social-Responsibility/SPPG-7-Middle-East-Strategy-and-Selective-Purchasing-Policy.aspx

In addition the Peace Not Walls campaign website describes a variety of possible positive investments in the Palestinian economy that can be made through travel, purchasing crafts and supporting the ELCJHL's Schools, the Augusta Victoria Hospital and Global Mission personnel. The ACCSR has approved a number of social investment criteria screens which provide a way for the ELCA to look at its investments through the lens of faith -

All of the screens begin with the social policy of the Church. The ELCA's social statements and social policy resolutions outline the policy of the church on a variety of current issues. This is interpreted for investment practices through the development of a social criteria investment screen. When a screen is approved by the Church Council, it is distributed to a range of Lutheran entities for them to implement. But, we must remember that, regardless of the subject matter, every screen is given for guidance to the bodies that implement them, whether it is a synod, individual congregation or something as large as the Board of Pensions.

CSR recognizes that various investors will implement these screens along a continuum. Some examples include the ability to fund research in an area or carrying out a specific fiduciary duty. Each member and each organization will implement a screen based on their own set of standards. The ELCA has no policy to support or direct a procedure of divestment. Absent such a policy, the ELCA could not make a decision for divestment of investments. It should also be noted that all separately incorporated entities of the ELCA including the Board of Pensions implement ELCA policy recommendations within their own guidelines and fiduciary duties. When it comes to the specific situation concerning the economic activities of the Peace Not Walls campaign, the 2007 Churchwide assembly action specifically excludes the option of exploration of divestment. (see point 5 in 2007 assembly action - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/Background.aspx ) Some of CSR's activities involve dialogues and resolutions.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is where the work of CSR traditionally takes place. The ELCA CSR program works at ICCR with partners from a variety of denominations, religious orders and the socially responsible investment community. In 2005 a sub-group gathered to see if there was work around the Middle East that could be done together. The work has centered on the development of corporate human rights policies, equal employment opportunity and a presence of factories in the settlements.

All of the dialogues that ELCA participates in are framed by the Issue Papers which have been developed - http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-action/Justice/Advocacy/Corporate-Social-Responsibility/CCA-5-Issue-Papers.aspx

These are used to guide the internal work of the CSR program as well as give guidance to those voting proxy resolutions throughout the church.

Another topic much discussed is sanctions. These are sometimes defined as punitive or restrictive measures taken, usually by several countries in concert, to pressure a country to change its certain policies. For example, economic sanctions ban trading with a given country, and diplomatic sanctions can result in the withdrawal of relations anddiplomatic representation. ELCA has no specific policy about sanctions.

Lastly, the ELCA has a specific procedure concerning any possible boycott.

A boycott has been defined as a collective effort to abstain from the purchase or use of products or services provided by a targeted firm, government, or other agency. The purpose of a boycott is to persuade the targeted entity to cease certain practices judged to be unjust, and/or to perform certain practices deemed to be just. Boycotts in the faith community have been taken both against an individual company -- such as the Nestlé infant formula boycott which began in the 1970s -- or an industry such as the lettuce boycott of the 1980s. Boycotts only work if there is an economic impact and media coverage. The ELCA's procedure concerning a boycott is detailed and therefore would likely take some time to be considered.

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There is so much more in the July 2010 Middle East Network Newsletter. Find it at this page: http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Peace-Not-Walls/Resources/Newsletter.aspx

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