Mr. David Miliband, President and CEO
International Rescue Committee
122 East 42nd Street
New York, New York 10168
We are writing to you today on behalf of CODEPINK, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that opposes militarism and seeks positive social change through proactive, creative protest, and non-violent direct action. CODEPINK is a part of a national campaign that includes 85 local, state, and national organizations that are calling for divestment from weapons of war.
We want to thank you for your ongoing work to support migrants and refugees in conflict regions across the globe. It is through the work of the International Rescue Committee that refugees are able to gain a foothold in their host countries. Today, we are writing out of concern for this year’s John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award Honoree Laurence D. Fink, CEO of BlackRock.
As you may know, Larry Fink stated that he would hold companies accountable for being responsible corporate citizens. His comments made waves in the U.S. business sector. However, under his watch, BlackRock maintains significant stakes in U.S., Israeli, and U.K. weapons companies, with it being the fifth-largest shareholder in BAE Systems. The products made by weapons manufacturers create refugees and internally displaced persons. They do not promote a just and compassionate world, which is why we are calling on BlackRock to divest its assets from weapons and warfare. We are also asking you to reconsider awarding Mr. Fink with a humanitarian award, while he continues to profit from war, weapons, and violence. As you know, the two leading contributors to the global refugee crisis we are currently facing is climate change and war. Rewarding Mr. Fink’s profits from weapons and violence while you seek to assist the people impacted by these wars undermines the valuable work that IRC is doing around the world.
In the U.S., the military-industrial complex dominates 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, which amounts to 64% of federal discretionary spending; and half of the Pentagon’s spending goes directly to U.S. weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. This money is being used to engage the U.S. and UK in active conflicts around the world, to give military support to the disastrous Saudi-led war on Yemen, and to support Israeli suppression of Palestinian human rights. As you have documented in your country file for Yemen, it is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 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. In addition, the U.K. has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. This includes small arms, precision-guided bombs, and so-called “dumb bomb” conversion kits. BlackRock and Mr. Fink own billions in shares of the companies who are arming Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, he is profiting from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The massive profits these companies rake in are made on the backs of civilians in poor countries such as Yemen, who are paying the ultimate price of war. General Dynamics is a prime example of a U.S. company profiting from those who are 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. We are urging you to reconsider honoring Mr. Fink as he profits from those displacements and gross human rights violations.
Honoring Mr. Fink with a humanitarian award only undermines the mission and vision of the International Rescue Committee. His company’s insistence on propping up weapons manufacturers undermines any possibility of diplomacy between countries and prevents the proper compassionate care of refugees and internally displaced persons.
We are currently running a campaign in the U.S. against BlackRock to divest from the war machine and obviously, his appearance at your event will be a part of our strategy to reach him. We wanted to give you an opportunity to pull back your offer to honor him, which in turn dishonors John Whitehead and the humanitarian mission of the IRC.
We strongly urge you to reconsider your award to Laurence D. Fink.
Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.