The Stanford Class of 2014 Commencement speakers, Bill and Melinda Gates, are currently facing global scrutiny for their foundation’s $172 million investment in G4S,the world’s largest private military and security company. G4S is the world’s second-largest private employer and is complicit in a litany of human rights abuses and concerns, including:
- Privatizing juvenile detention facilities in the United States and operating over 100 vehicles that bring captured undocumented immigrants to detention centers on the US/Mexico border.
- Failing to properly house asylum seekers in UK detention centers, killing Jimmy Mubenga while attempting to deport him to Angola, and killing 15-year-old Gareth Myatt while restraining him at a youth detention center.
- Operating prisons, detention and interrogation centers in Israel and the Occupied Palestine, which hold over 5,000 political prisoners, 173 children, and 180 people in indefinite detainment. In one case, Arafat Jaradat died from torture in a G4S-secured detention center in 2013.
- Operating the world's second largest private prison in South Africa, which is currently under investigation for using forced injections and shock therapy to subdue inmates.
- Violating international labor codes by paying substandard wages and using racist language and policies against employees in Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa, where University of Cape Town students are campaigning to remove the company as the university's security contractor for its mistreatment of workers.
- Providing security services for natural resource companies, such as Exxon and Xstrata, that exploit and harm the environment and harm indigenous land and peoples in the Niger Delta and Philippines, among other places
- Conducting private military operations in 26 countries including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chile, Cyprus, Iraq, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nepal, Sakhalin Island (Russia) and Sudan.
We appreciate the Gates’ willingness to share their time with the Class of 2014 and our campus. While here, we ask Bill and Melinda to engage in dialogue about principles for making the world a better place. We highlight investments in G4S as a crucial contradiction to our individual and collective values as upcoming leaders in the global community. The company’s practices undermine Stanford’s founding mission to promote public welfare and the Gates Foundation’s philanthropic legacy.
The Founding Grant of the university tasks its students with “[promoting] the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization.” We seek to utilize our influence as Stanford students and the audience of the Gates Commencement address towards this end. Financing and profiting from the oppression of others does not benefit humanity. We publicly ask the Gates to divest from G4S as a sign of respect to us and to the communities oppressed by companies like G4S. In addition to this, we ask the Gates to release a public statement outlining their guidelines for ethical investment practices.
We hope you’ll join us in this request by signing the petition below: