Cluster bomb funds shrinking under pressure: report

Cluster bomb funds shrinking under pressure: report
By Stephanie Nebehay
16 November 2011

A cluster bomb container with bomblets

(Reuters) - More Western governments and financial institutions are halting investment in the production of cluster bombs, blamed for killing and injuring civilians long after wars end, activists said on Wednesday.

The Cluster Munitions Coalition launched a campaign, Stop Explosive Investments, two years ago to pressure states that have signed up to the 2008 Oslo treaty banning the weapons not to bankroll their manufacture. "We are pushing hard for states to recognize that the Convention also bans investment in the production of cluster munitions," Steve Goose, chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, told a news briefing. "There has been a major campaign to get states to be sure that no money is invested by private companies even in this kind of activity," he said.

Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area. Activists say that many fail to explode during conflicts, posing a perpetual threat to civilians, especially farmers and children.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces used them in Misrata, according to the coalition's annual report, Cluster Munition Monitor 2011, published on Wednesday. Spain has confirmed it exported cluster munitions to Libya in 2006 and 2008, it said.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans their use, production and transfer and sets timetables for stockpile destruction. So far 111 states have joined, but major producers China, Russia, the United States have shunned the pact and are negotiating a separate agreement to regulate cluster munitions. Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg and New Zealand have prohibited investment in cluster munitions, the report said. In a dozen countries, from Japan to Britain, financial institutions had taken action to stop investment in cluster munition production, the report said.

"Government pension funds in Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden have withdrawn and/or banned investments in cluster munition producers," it added. But U.S. financial institutions were notably absent. At least 19 states, including Australia, have stated their view that investment in cluster munitions production is a form of assistance that is banned under the treaty, the report said.

Royal Bank of Scotland said on September 1 that it would no longer do business with companies involved in the manufacture of cluster bombs. Switzerland has also announced that it will include a clause in its law ratifying the Oslo pact to ban investment in cluster munitions, while the Netherlands has said it will present a plan by year-end to ban direct investment, according to Roos Boer of the Dutch church activist group IKV Pax Christi.

A report issued in May by IKV Pax Christi and another group, Netwerk Vlaanderen, said 166 financial institutions had invested $39 billion in eight cluster munitions producers since 2008. They were named as Alliant Techsystems, Lockheed Martin and Textron in the United States, China's state-owned Norinco, Hanwha and Poongsan of South Korea, Singapore Technologies Engineering, and Russia's state-owned Splav.

"We have 23 financial institutions in our so-called Hall of Fame," Boer told Reuters. "They have installed comprehensive policies to ban any investment in cluster munition producers." Apart from government pension funds, the list includes Norwegian financial services group DnB NOR and the pension fund of electronics giant Philips.

(edited by Richard Meares)
Source: Reuters.