The International Rescue Committee (IRC) should rescind the honor and give it to someone who does not profit from war and global suffering.
Bombings. International health crises. Ripping children from their parents at the border. You would expect a humanitarian to condemn—not profit from—these kinds of actions.
But this November, BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink is scheduled to receive the prestigious John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award from the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The award was established in 2015 to commemorate the lifework of former Secretary of State John Whitehead, a D-Day veteran and long-committed member of the IRC board. Whitehead spent years supporting refugees fleeing conflict zones across the globe. Unlike Whitehead, the actions of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink do more harm than good for the plight of refugees, which is why the IRC should rescind his award.
BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, maintains significant stakes in weapons companies around the world. It is the top investor in weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. The products made by weapons manufacturers displace populations and create refugees.
These companies lie at the brutal heart of the military-industrial complex. In supporting them, BlackRock and its shareholders are making huge profits off of war and global suffering.
Rewarding Fink for profiting from the very violence and displacement that the IRC tirelessly works to solve through their refugee aid programs undermines the valuable work the organization is doing around the world.
The military-industrial complex dominates U.S. spending and spreads death and destruction at home and abroad. Investing in weapons of war means that we are making a killing on killing—hardly the humanitarian way to run a business.
In 2016, the U.S. dedicated over $700 billion of our tax dollars toward the Pentagon. That's 64 percent of federal discretionary spending. Half of the Pentagon’s spending goes directly to weapons manufacturers. This money is being used to engage the U.S. in seven active conflicts around the world and gives military support to the disastrous U.S.-backed Saudi-led war on Yemen.
As the IRC has documented in its country file for Yemen, the situation in this Arab sovereign state is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Today, two-thirds of the Yemeni population is at risk of starvation, with a million people gripped by a deadly cholera outbreak. Every 10 minutes, a child in Yemen dies from war-related hunger and disease. While Larry Fink enjoys his morning coffee, the companies he funds are selling weapons to those waging this gruesome war.
U.S. weapons manufacturers have sold more than $650 million worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support their war in Yemen. This includes small arms, precision-guided bombs and so-called "dumb bomb" conversion kits. BlackRock and Fink own billions in shares of the companies that are arming Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which means he is actively profiting from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world (a catastrophe that goes unreported on most media channels).
The massive profits these companies rake in are made on the backs of civilians in poor countries like Yemen, which is paying the ultimate price of war. General Dynamics is a prime example of a company profiting from suffering. The military contractor has taken a government contract to provide “social services” to migrant children held at U.S. detention camps. In the past, General Dynamics has provided weapons to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq, and Turkey, and directly benefited from the U.S. invasion on Iraq. IRC has condemned the actions at the border and the separation of families. Fink profits from those displacements and gross human rights violations.
Larry Fink has stated that he would hold companies accountable for being responsible corporate citizens. Consequently, Fink needs to reconcile his call for CEOs to carefully examine the roles they play in the community and the impact they have on the environment with the fact that sustained investment in weapons’ manufacturers has resulted in a perpetual and expansive state of war. The weapons’ companies Blackrock invests in spread fear, horrifying death, and destruction in communities across the globe. If Larry Fink thinks making a killing on killing is what makes a “responsible corporate citizen”, I’d hate to see what an irresponsible CEO looks like.
Ignoring suffering—and capitalizing on it—is not a profile in humanitarian courage.
Honoring Fink with a humanitarian award contradicts the mission and vision of the International Rescue Committee and the intent of the Whitehead Humanitarian Award. BlackRock, by insisting on propping up weapons manufacturers, only gets in the way of any possibility for diplomacy between countries and prevents the proper compassionate care of refugees and internally displaced persons.
At the end of the day, awarding the Black Rock CEO this honor would be a black eye on the IRC. Fink is no humanitarian. He is a war profiteer who does not deserve an award intended for those supporting migrants and refugees. Mr. Fink, with your as-of-yet to be deserved humanitarian award in hand - you need to have another reflective heart-to-heart talk with yourself.
Nancy Mancias is a national organizer with CODEPINK, a grassroots peace and social justice organization. She has worked over 15 years in the nonprofit sector, focusing on social services, social justice, and theater. She has volunteered and visited the refugee camps in Greece and Kurdistan, Iraq, and provided migrant support on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jan R. Weinberg, founder of Show Up! America, based in Princeton NJ, is an organizer with the Divest From the War Machine coalition.