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PHROC and PNGO send letters calling on the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) to act with Due Diligence and Refrain from Investing in Israel’s Unlawful Settlement Enterprise

Saturday, 06 April 2019 08:33 Date: 6 April 2019
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PHROC and PNGO send letters calling on the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) to act with Due Diligence and Refrain from Investing in Israel’s Unlawful Settlement EnterpriseIn February 2019, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) and the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) sent joint letters to the Ms. Janice Dunn Lee, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Secretary to the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board and Mr. Sudhir Rajkumar, Representative of the Secretary-General to the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. The letters called on the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) to operate with transparency and due diligence, and to publicly commit to refrain from its practice, of investing monies from the UNJSPF in Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), in violation of international law.

The letters highlight how the UNJSPF invested part of its pension fund portfolio in illegal corporate operations on appropriated Palestinian land, for the benefit of Israeli settlers and multinational profit, thereby incentivizing settlement expansion. Although the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund does not publicly disclose its investment portfolio, it had established two exchange traded funds (ETFs) known as LOWNC and CRBN. These two ETFs have documented investments amounting to some $7.5 million in companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It must be noted, that UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) reiterates that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the OPT constitutes a serious and flagrant violation of international law. For example, ETFs hold shares in Caterpillar ($1,3 million), Leumi Bank ($2,3 million), Hitachi (app. $600,000), Volvo ($450,000), Hyundai Heavy Industries ($300,000), Motorola ($183,000 of stocks). In particular, Motorola's wholly-owned Israeli subsidiary has developed and supplied surveillance technology to deter Palestinian resistance and maintain Israel's 51-year military occupation. All of the above mentioned corporations profit from Israel's prolonged occupation with some providing demolition and construction equipment used for settlement expansion, destruction of Palestinian property and the forcible displacement of the protected Palestinian population.

In the letters, PHROC and PNGO called on the management of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) to:

  • Act decisively in order to ensure that the UNJSPF investment policy is in conformity with international law and UN resolutions, and that investments are publicly withdrawn from businesses involved in grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, with a public commitment that UNJSPF will refrain from operating in Israel's illegal settlement enterprise.
  • Publish the UNJSPF investment portfolio.
  • Ensure restitution by returning profits UNJSPF made in investing in Israel's illegal settlements to affected Palestinian communities and individuals.
  • Call on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately release the UN Database, as mandated by the Human Rights Council, to provide interpretative guidance to enable investors such as the UNJSPF to undertake due diligence and make informed choices about their investment portfolios.
  • Take a decisive stand in the fight against impunity, and ensure that this issue is immediately addressed in the further investment decisions

The joint letters may be found here and here

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