February 20, 2008


Activists Target the 'Genocide Olympics': Saying China's oil purchases support violence in Darfur, human-rights groups are pressuring McDonald's and other sponsors of the Games (Aili McConnon, 2/20/08, Business Week)

There are still six months to go before the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics this summer, but the heat is already on McDonald's (MCD) and other sponsors of the games. Human-rights groups are stepping up pressure on multinational advertisers that haven't spoken out against the killing in the Sudanese region of Darfur. Activists maintain that China's purchases of oil from Sudan support the Khartoum regime despite global sanctions over its human-rights record. "We will use our elbows if it helps the people of Darfur," says actor Mia Farrow, chairman of a group called Dream for Darfur.

Farrow's group started politely last summer, when it asked 19 corporate sponsors to contact the International Olympic Committee and the Chinese government about Darfur and to sign a statement of concern about violence there. In November the group released a "report card" on the issue, giving General Electric (GE) the top score, a C+, because it got in touch with the IOC and provided $2 million in aid to refugees in Darfur. McDonald's and Adidas (ADDDY) "barely passed," according to the group, but they got credit for meeting with Dream for Darfur and reaching out to the IOC and others. The rest got Ds and Fs, says the group's director, Jill Savitt. "None of these companies really wants be the spouting whale that gets the harpoon from China," she says.

Now, Dream for Darfur is preparing to toughen its tactics. The group aims to target the different "exposures and weak points" of specific brands, Savitt says. Plans include large-scale demonstrations, online videos, and stickers such as "McDonald's: Proud Sponsors of the Genocide Olympics" aimed at prodding the fast-food chain and other companies to do more for human-rights issues. They want companies to send executives to meet with Farrow, contact the U.N. about the state of peacekeeping in Darfur, and call for Sudanese war criminals to be banned from attending the Olympics.

One gropes to find a reason why Darfurians matter more than Uighurs, for instance, but anything that turns this celebration of an evil regime into a humiliation is worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2008 7:04 AM
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