Victory! Ulster Bank owner RBS in cluster bombs u-turn

Booming business

Ulster Bank owner RBS has performed a big u-turn on its investments in makers of cluster munitions.

The change comes after a period of intense campaigning by Amnesty International. Normally we tend to be reluctant to claim direct successes for our work, knowing that many variables are at work and that many people and groups contribute to success. But I’ve no hestitation in claiming lots of the credit on this one for the thousands who backed Amnesty’s campaign over the last few weeks. That campaign led RBS to change its position from these denials:

We do not invest in companies who produce cluster munitions and do not recognise the claims made in the IKV Pax Christie report (which undeprinned Amnesty’s campaign). This is a serious issue and we have engaged with the writers of the report to understand these allegations.

(an extract from the initial response issued by RBS to enquiries by Amnesty supporters and concerned RBS customers)

to this change of heart:

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 cannot 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.

(an extract from the response issued by RBS this week).

Since Amnesty International launched its campaign on 16 August, more than 10,000 people have emailed Stephen Hester, the CEO of RBS, to demand that the company stop investing in cluster munitions producing companies. RBS has now agreed to cease its investment in such companies and has also promised to cut any links with companies involved in producing these weapons, which are banned under UK law. And, let’s not forget, RBS – and thus its local subsidiary, Ulster Bank – is actually majority owned by the UK taxpayer.

This is the short Amnesty film that helped make a difference. Have a look and let me know what you think – it’s part of the new Amnesty TV initiative.

Meanwhile, I’m going to toast a human rights success with a mug of coffee. Fair trade, of course.