Sign the open letter: Councillors defend our right to boycott and divest
As elected local councillors we are committed to ensure that human rights and climate justice principles are respected, and that when they are violated, actions are taken to stop the harm and to hold those responsible to account.
Local councils have the right to decide not to purchase or procure from companies involved in abuse of human rights, workers’ rights, destruction of our planet, or any other harmful or illegal acts. Local government pension committees can implement the priorities of scheme members in ensuring that their deferred wages are not invested in companies involved in such abuse.
We stand in the tradition of councillors who have taken a stand for justice: whether it is councils historically cutting ties with companies involved in apartheid in South Africa, to those cutting links with companies complicit in Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, climate wrecking fossil fuel companies, arms companies complicit with horrific attacks on civilians, or companies involved in illegal settlements in Palestine, Western Sahara, and other occupied territories. We know that those taking such action do so to ensure a high standard of ethical investment and procurement, and to respond to the concerns of their constituents or pension scheme members.
For this reason, we oppose the government’s moves to restrict the ability of public bodies, including local councils and local government pension funds, to make ethical procurement and investment decisions.
We affirm that it is the right, and indeed a responsibility, of public bodies to break ties with companies contributing to abuses of rights and violations of international law, in occupied Palestine, and anywhere else where such acts occur.
In 1988, then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher imposed restrictions on local councils to prevent them from standing against apartheid in South Africa and Namibia, saying that it is not the place of local government to take ‘political action’. Despite this, councils across the country refused to be silent, and by Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, over 40 councils had declared “the elimination of apartheid is a responsibility of all citizens and their representatives, wherever they may live.” Those councils were on the right side of history. We celebrate the legacy they have left us and feel moved by this legacy to act today.