Following a media and email campaign led by Amnesty International UK, together with Article 36 and other UK NGOs, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has committed to issue a new policy on investments in cluster munitions. RBS has stated that it will suspend further involvement with companies where it cannot be sure that they are not complying with the spirit and the letter of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the policy will be extended to all entities operating within a company’s group.

Detailed research launched by IKV Pax Christi and Netwerk Vlaanderen last May has underpinned this campaign in the UK. RBS has not made it clear which companies it has blacklisted as a result of NGO efforts, but based on evidence to hand it is likely to be Alliant Techsystems and Lockheed Martin, which had both been identified as having links to RBS.

Coming after over 12,000 emails from Amnesty supporters in a two-week period, a hard-hitting short film by Chris Atkins, a major spread in the Independent and the threat of an aggressive national advertising campaign, this decision by RBS is a significant win for UK civil society on cluster munitions. Article 36 commends this step by RBS, which recognizes the importance of prohibiting cluster bombs, acknowledges the role the financial sector has to play in these efforts and reflects the growing stigma against these unacceptable weapons.

Together with Amnesty and other UK members of the Cluster Munition Coalition, Article 36 will continue to work with RBS to ensure that this policy is strictly implemented and to pressure the UK government to develop a code of conduct that will prevent any direct of indirect investments in cluster munitions in the future.

The new email response from RBS issued on 1 September reads as follows:

‘Thank-you for your e-mail regarding the RBS Group’s approach to defence sector lending, specifically relating to the production of cluster munitions.

The Group’s policy in this area is both comprehensive and clear. It states that RBS will not knowingly support any application for funding or financial services that would lead to contravention of the Oslo Convention on cluster munitions. We will always seek to ensure that we only deal with defence sector clients whose activities are compliant with both the letter and the spirit of the Convention.

After discussions with various NGO groups we have identified some defence sector clients whose activities could be considered to be outside the spirit of the Convention.  As a result, we will be suspending all further services to any client where we can not be certain that they are in compliance with our policy. We will seek to work with both the UK Government and NGO groups to create clarity on this issue, and encourage other banks to do the same.’

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