RBS revealed to be investing in banned cluster munitions
Tom Shelton, Handicap International UK
Leading financial institutions, both in the UK and worldwide, are continuing to invest billions of dollars in companies producing cluster munitions, despite these weapons being banned under international law, according to a new report released last week.
The report by Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) members IKV Pax Christi and Netwerk Vlaanderen1 shows that worldwide, 166 private and public financial institutions from 15 countries continue to invest in companies that produce cluster munitions. Since the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in May 2008, the global amount invested in companies that still produce cluster munitions totals US$39 billion.
The human and economic cost of cluster munitions is well-documented. The weapons cause widespread harm on impact and unexploded submunitions pose a threat to civilians for decades to come. Over the last 40 years, cluster munitions have killed and injured thousands of civilians and continue to do so today.
An M77 cluster submunition hanging from an olive tree, South Lebanon, 2006
In the UK, 12 financial institutions are listed in the report’s ‘Hall of Shame’. RBS, subject of the WDM clean the banks campaign, is number four in the list, making it the only EU-based financial institution remaining in the top five investors in cluster munition producers worldwide.
Following the recent financial crisis, the UK bank is 83% state-owned after being bailed out by UK taxpayers. Despite this, the report identifies that RBS was part of a banking syndicate providing a loan to US cluster bomb producer Alliant Techsystems in October 2010 for an amount of US$80 million.
It is unacceptable for any financial institutions in the UK to still be financing, either directly or indirectly, a weapon that has been officially banned under UK and international law, especially in the case of banks financed by public money. Campaigners from the Cluster Munition Coalition are urging the UK government to take strong action and make clear to all UK banks and financial institutions, including those mentioned in the report, that they must respect the UK’s obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
To date, 108 countries, including the UK, have joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. Article 1(c) of the Convention bans "assistance", stating that:
Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention”
Despite this, financial institutions in 15 countries are still investing in cluster munition producing companies, including financial institutions in nine countries that have joined the Convention. As a member of the CMC, Handicap International believes that financial investment in the production of cluster munitions is a form of assistance, and is calling on all States to ban all investment in the production and trade of cluster munitions.