Latin American research center drops G4S

G4S has come under pressure from human rights activists across the globe. (Aimee Valinski/Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Palestine rights activists are celebrating what they are calling the first major victory for BDS – the campaign to impose boycott, divestment and and sanctions measures on Israel over its abuses of Palestinian rights – in Ecuador after a research institute there announced it dropped its contract with global security giant G4S.

According to the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the civil society coalition that provides direction for the global BDS movement, the International Center for Advanced Studies in Communications for Latin America, known as CIESPAL, declined to renew its contract with G4S after meeting with activists.

G4S, which is based in the UK, announced at the end of last year that it was dropping a slate of controversial businesses, including its Israel subsidiary and juvenile detention services in the US. The Financial Times described the move as an attempt by G4S to distance itself from “reputationally damaging work.”

G4S still in Israel

Campaigners have vowed to maintain pressure on the company so long as it is complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights.

The company still has a stake Policity, an Israeli police training center. G4S also provides services to Shikun & Binui, an infrastructure and real estate group operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to Pedro Charbel, the BDS National Committee’s coordinator in Latin America, the solidarity group Ecuador por Palestina has been campaigning over the past year to get companies to drop G4S. While its main target is Banco del Pacífico, one of the largest banks in the country, and which is owned by the government, activists also approached smaller entities that employ G4S.

Charbel says that talks with CIESPAL, based in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, began last October, after he and members of Ecuador por Palestina came to the research center for a speaking event.

“We realized the place was secured by G4S,” Charbel told The Electronic Intifada.

After a series of meetings, the center agreed not to renew the contract.

Lost contracts

The BDS movement claims credit for costing G4S contracts worth millions of dollars.

Over the last few years, private businesses, universities, municipalities and religious groups have all moved away from the company as its profiteering from human rights abuses came under scrutiny.

In 2014, the Bill Gates Foundation divested its shares in the company and the BBC chose not to award G4S a significant contract.

In 2016, a major restaurant chain in Colombia told activists it would end its contract with G4S, and several UN agencies in Lebanon and Jordan have dropped the company’s security services.

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Charlotte Silver

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Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.