Lauren Gambino in New York
More than 150 financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America invested $28bn in companies that produce cluster bombs despite an international ban, according to a new report by the Netherlands-based peace organization PAX.
The report includes a “Hall of Shame”, a list of 158 banks, pension funds and other financial institutions that have invested in cluster munitions producers since June 2012, according to the 2016 report, titled Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: A Shared Responsibility. The leading financial investors come from 14 countries including the United States, Canada and the UK, and include the investment firms China Everbright Group and T Rowe Price.
Cluster bombs are banned under international law by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a 2008 Oslo treaty which was signed by more than 100 countries. The convention was the result of a years-long campaign against the weapons, which kill indiscriminately.
A majority of the institutions on the list are from countries that have not signed the convention, including the United States, China and South Korea.
However, the report notes that several financial institutions are from signatory countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany.
The report calls for all of the financial institutions to sever all financial links with companies involved in cluster munitions productions and develop divestment policies that apply to all aspects of their business, including commercial banking, investment banking and asset management.
“It is an absolute outrage that financial institutions are investing billions into companies that produce weapons which are banned under international law,” Suzanne Oosterwijk, the author of the report, said in a statement. “Canada has also banned these weapons. It is time for financial institutions to stop disregarding the international norm with these explosive investments into producers of illegal weapons that maim and kill civilians.”
Cluster bombs scatter explosive 'bomblets' over a wide area, and are responsible for the deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. Often the bomblets do not explode on impact and can continue to kill and maim civilians long after the initial bombing campaign. Recently, the weapons have been used in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
In recent years, the campaign and its Hall of Shame has been successful in persuading some countries to suspend their involvement in cluster munitions producers. Furthermore, a number of states have adopted legislation prohibiting investment in cluster munitions, including Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Samoa, Spain and Switzerland. The report says that 28 additional states have interpreted the convention to mean that investments in such companies are prohibited.
“Growing leadership by countries taking action against investments in cluster munitions is a great step forward,” said Megan Burke, director of the international Cluster Munition Coalition. “Now all governments that have joined the life-saving Convention on Cluster Munitions must follow their lead. Cluster munitions are banned – not a single penny should go to companies making this horrendous weapon.”
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