London, 5th December 2011
A new campaign by an international disability charity aims to close a lethal loophole that means UK banks are still investing in cluster munitions producers despite the weapons being illegal under UK and international law. The Forgotten 10 Challenge , launched on 1st December by Handicap International UK, is ten days of action in support of the victims of landmines and cluster munitions.
As part of the campaign, supporters from around the UK are writing to Vince Cable, the minister in charge of regulating UK banks, and asking him to take action to ensure that all forms of investment in cluster munitions are prohibited .
Cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons that cause terrible injuries. Almost all of their recorded victims are civilians. One third of the victims are children, who are often attracted by the interesting shape of unexploded submunitions.
In August 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force, making it illegal for State signatories, including the UK, to use, produce stockpile or transfer cluster munitions, or to assist any other party to engage in these activities .
“Allowing UK banks to fund cluster bomb producers is comparable to producing the weapons ourselves, especially since many banks are relying on public money to stay afloat. This is against the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits any form of assistance in the production of these vicious weapons”, said Beatrice Cami, spokesperson for Handicap International UK.
To date, the UK has been a strong supporter of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The previous government stated its intention in 2009 to take action to ensure UK banks did not invest in cluster munitions, directly or indirectly . However, since the Coalition government entered power, progress has ground to a halt. Campaigners are now questioning the UK’s commitment to tackling the issue, particularly in the light of several other events in 2011.
Only strong pressure from campaigners prior to the recent CCW negotiations in Geneva prevented the UK from supporting U.S. attempts to impose a weaker agreement on cluster munitions that would have undermined the existing Convention. In the end, the UK did not take the floor once during the entire two weeks of negotiations, although the Handicap International advocacy team believes that UK delegates may have still been working behind the scenes to facilitate negotiations.
In September, while the UK was pledging its commitment to eradicating cluster munitions at the treaty conference in Beirut, campaigners discovered the weapons being openly promoted for sale in London for the second year running, at the Defence & Security Equipment international (DSEi) arms fair. Although DSEi, with the support of the UK government, shut down the two stands, which were operating in violation of UK law and DSEi’s own rules, questions were raised about the UK’s approach to regulating arms sales on its own soil.
Despite both weapons being banned, landmines and cluster munitions are still claiming victims around the world. In 2011, there were over 4,000 new victims, an average of one victim every two hours . Handicap International is working at all levels to ensure that these weapons are eradicated for good and that the survivors get the support they need to rebuild their lives. Only long-term commitment with sufficient resources can free communities from the threat posed by these barbaric weapons.
Aynalem Zenebe, a member of Handicap International’s Ban Advocates  said: “Cluster munition victims, like me, want the same opportunities as everyone to support families, work, and be a part of life in our communities. We count on you to take steps so that the promise of this Convention is realized for all cluster munition victims. We have heard many [States] speak of your interest and commitment to this central part of the Convention. This is a start, but the most important thing is acting.”
Tom Shelton, Handicap International UK
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737 | Mob: +44 (0)7508 820 520 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, we take action and raise awareness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Handicap International is a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munition Coalition.
 The campaign letter can be found at: http://act.handicap-international.org.uk/lobby/11
 Article 1(c) of the Convention on Cluster Munitions bans "assistance" in the production of cluster munitions, stating that: "Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention”