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Amnesty International ‘regrets’ accusing Aviva of investing in cluster bomb-makers

Human rights group forced into U-turn after statement this morning was found to have ‘out-of-date information’ on Aviva.

An explosive expert of Colombia's Air Force defuses a cluster bomb prior to its destruction at a military base in Marandua, in southern Colombia
An explosive expert of Colombia's Air Force defuses a cluster bomb prior to its destruction at a military base in Marandua, in southern Colombia
Image: Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 16.41

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS said that it was mistaken in accusing Aviva, which trades in Ireland, of investing in cluster bombs.

Aviva and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which owns Ulster Bank, are among a number of financial institutions in Ireland that Amnesty said this morning are investing in such companies.

However, the international human rights lobbyists have this afternoon released an embarrassing u-turn which states that:

This information is not correct.

TheJournal.ie had contacted Aviva and RBS this morning for their reaction to Amnesty International’s claims. Both companies said that the claims were wrong. While Amnesty has since retracted its claims on Aviva, it said that it was still standing by its claims against RBS.

The RBS spokesperson told TheJournal.ie:

We do not invest in cluster munitions or the companies who manufacture them and do not recognise the claims made in the IKV Pax Christi report. This is a serious issue and we are engaging with the writers of the report to understand these allegations. We have received assurances from our defence sector clients that they are not in breach of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Aviva released a statement that read:

Aviva Group has committed to respect and uphold fundamental principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption. As a sign of this commitment we are signatories to the United Nations Global Compact and support human rights principes as outlined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation core labour standards.

It says it supports the Convention on Cluster Munitions and that it was decided the Aviva Group should not hold securities linked to companies involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions or anti-personnel mines on its own account.

It employs an independent third party, Ethix, to identify companies involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions or anti-personnel mines and in 2010 indentified 11 companies of concern.

It wrote to these companies and told them to reassure them they were not involved, or be placed on a stop list, which prohibits capital in Aviva’s own investment accounts from being invested in securities associated with that company.

We received responses from four companies. One company – Lockheed Martin – confirmed an involvement in a contract due to terminate in 2013.  Three companies – Aerostar, GenCorp and Singapore Technologies Engineering – denied involvement. We forwarded these responses to our research providers for more detailed investigation. Since then, Aerostar has been removed from our Stop List. However the other companies remain on our stop list.
As such there are no holdings in Aviva’s beneficial shareholder funds for any security linked to these issuers.

There are currently 12 companies on Aviva’s stop list due to their involvement in cluster munitions.

Amnesty International had claimed that RBS recently agreed a US $80million (€56 million) loan to US companies that produce cluster munitions or their components, while Aviva also has over US$130million (€91million) invested in cluster munitions manufacturers.

RBS and Aviva were among the companies named in the May 2011 IKV Pax Christi report into worldwide investments in cluster munitions.

However, Amnesty has this afternoon issued a retraction which read:

Since the research was carried out Aviva has divested itself of those investments. It has also placed those companies, along with a number of others, on a ‘stop list’ to prevent any investment in companies manufacturing cluster munitions.

Amnesty International regrets that the press release issued this morning was based on out-of-date information and fully accepts and welcomes Aviva’s postition that the company has no investments in companies that manufacture cluster munitions.

Also named in the IKV Pax Christi report was Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), which was established to meet much of the cost of social welfare and public service pensions from 2025 onwards.

On 3 March 2008, it was announced that the NPRF would withdraw €27 million from investments in six international companies that were linked to cluster munitions production, at the request of the Irish government.

  • After the 2008 Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act was passed, NPRF disinvested from seven companies and excluded from consideration four others in which it had not yet invested.
  • The international Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008) bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight.
  • Ireland incorporated the Convention’s provisions in the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act 2008.

- Additional reporting by Susan Daly

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