Aid groups: 43bn dollars invested in cluster bomb makers - Summary

(Geneva) - Financial institutions from 15 countries provide at least 43 billion dollars worth of investments and services to seven producers of cluster bombs, aid groups said Wednesday.


Speaking with reporters in Geneva, the groups slammed financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, BlackRock, UBS AG and others, for dealing with the manufacturers.
"It is unacceptable for leading financial institutions to continue investing in weapons which are to be banned under international law," said Roos Boer with Pax Christi.
An international convention banning cluster bombs will become legally binding in August. It has been signed by 104 countries and ratified by 30 so far.
However, some key producing and stockpiling countries, including the United States, China, Israel, North Korea and Russia have not signed up.
Alliant Techsystems, Hanwha, and Lockheed Martin are among the companies said to produce the cluster munitions.
These weapons makers benefited, according to the charities, from services from the 146 investment groups listed in the so-called "hall of shame." About half of the financial firms are US-based.
The aid groups, also drew up a much smaller "hall of fame" with 21 financial institutions who have opted out or have policies against making such investments.
These included mostly Dutch and Scandinavian pension funds and banks, including ABN Amro, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Owing to what it said was a "lack of transparency" in the weapons industry, the coalition of aid groups said the information was not complete.
"Cluster bombs have killed and injured thousands of civilians during the last 40 years and continue to do so long after a conflict has ended," according to the groups, which also include Handicap International.
In order to cut capital to the manufacturers, the Cluster Munition Coalition says it will push for domestic legislation in different countries to ban financial institutions from dealing with companies that make the lethal bomblets.
Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and New Zealand have already outlawed investment in cluster munition producers, and lawmakers in Switzerland are considering a similar bill.
Cluster bombs eject sub-munitions over a wide area, making them a deadly and generally imprecise weapon. Many fail to explode and effectively turn into landmines scattered across civilian populated areas. Clearing them is an expensive task.
The sub-munitions have most recently been used in the Middle East and Asia, including in Lebanon in 2006 and during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, according to Human Rights Watch.


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