Cornwall Council will look into adopting an 'ethical' investment strategy following concerns I have raised about investments in Bahrain - a country with a very dubious record on human rights and the rule of law.
My initial question was as to whether the council has any investments in the country. The answer - that we have no bank accounts in the country and the belief is that we do not invest in any companies which do business with the Government of Bahrain - was welcome, although I'm not 100% sure that this is correct. Questions have been raised about the investments made by the former Kerrier District Council and I believe that we should look more closely at the investments made by the Council's pensions fund.
I then pressed Cabinet Member Cllr Jim Currie on future plans to make sure that we keep our hands clean in our bank accounts and investments. He prevaricated a bit about the precise definition of 'human rights', but then committed Cornwall Council to look to adopting an ethical investment strategy so that investments in dodgy regimes such as Bahrain can be avoided.
Why bring this up in the first place?
Since the 'Arab Spring' started, there has been unrest in Bahrain - a long time ally of the West - and this has been shut down by the regime there with help from forces from Saudi Arabia and the UAE - other key allies. This shutting down has taken a brutal form in many cases and it is clear that human rights are being abused there. Reports from ex-pats in the country tell of frequent gunfire and charges by Government forces and the centre of peaceful protest - Pearl Roundabout - has been cleared and knocked down.
It is quite right that Cornwall Council's investments strategy should be based on maximising our return, but it should also be underpinned by an ethical dimension and it looks as if we are taking a step in that direction.