Open letter to the attendees of the Middle East Congress 2015
February 25-26, London.
You are attending a conference showcasing investment cases in Egypt. A country whose abuse of human rights has been highlighted as particularly dire by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. A country whose military leadership is engaged in policies that sow civil and sectarian strife and whose adventurism threatens the stability of the entire region.
The lesson of the financial crises of 2008, whose damage the world economy in general, and the European economies, in particular, are still struggling to repair, was that overlaying all investment should be a moral purpose and a long term perspective.
This is a call that has been taken up from quarters as varied as the Blue Print for Better Business to Sovereign Wealth Funds, such as the Canadian Pension Board in association with the global consulting group Mackenzie.
The reason for this call is not purely motivated by a sense of morality, although that in itself is laudable, but by a recognition that a keen awareness of what is right is one of the best ways to avoid catastrophic systemic investment risk.
Nowhere is this need for a moral compass as the primary investment monitor more acute than in investing in developing countries. It is specifically important in Egypt, where a cynical military coup against the region’s first democratically elected government threatens not only the long term stability and development of the entire region (and therefore by extension the economic interests of developed countries), but has also pursued morally repugnant policies in its quest to maintain political power.
In addition, the rampant corruption in the economic system there coupled with a lack of the rule of law that negates the safety of any property rights, makes any investment in Egypt inherently unsafe.
The reports of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are uncontroversially clear. In overturning the democratic government in Egypt, the current regime, backed by the corrupt business elite of the country, has committed murder on a scale never seen in modern Egyptian history, imprisoned and tortured thousands of political dissidents and most shockingly employed rape as a weapon against women detainees.
The attendees of this conference, therefore, have to ask themselves the same question that investors should have asked themselves in the run up to the financial meltdown of 2008. Should the pursuit of short term profit overwhelm all other considerations? Should they ignore the clear indication that the current regime in attempting to cling to power is pursuing policies locally and regionally that carry a great deal of risk in that will likely destabilise the entire region and threaten all sunk investments there? Indeed, should not a justifiable moral repugnance at the well documented actions of the government, backed by and supporting, the counter-parties presenting themselves from Egypt, act as a red flag against committing to doing business there?
It is perfectly clear that you have a fiduciary as well as a moral duty not to invest in Egypt at this present time. First, because such a pursuit of short termism ignoring possible systemic risk is precisely what got the global economy in trouble in 2008. Secondly, because by investing in Egypt you and your companies are effectively becoming complicit in an abuse of human rights on a scale not witnessed in the modern history of that country.
We therefore urge you to boycott all investment in Egypt until the release all political dissidents (starting with the children), stop the use of torture and rape as political weapons, restore a free press, freedom if assembly, restore the democratic process and start a deep programme of economic reform that aims to uproot corruption from the fabric of the Egyptian economy.
The Egyptian Revolutionary Council.