The successful cluster munitions divestment campaign shows that divestment has the potential to change the behaviour of nuclear weapons producers and nuclear weapons states.
Until relatively recently, the use of cluster munitions was considered legitimate by many states, including the UK. Cluster munitions were used extensively by the US and the UK in the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, concerns about the indiscriminate effects of the weapons and the long-term threat posed to civilians led to the negotiation of the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention, which prohibits all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The convention entered into force in 2010 and gave campaigners a powerful tool to persuade financial institutions to divest from cluster munitions producers.
By 2012, four major British financial institutions had banned shareholdings in companies that were involved in making or supplying cluster munitions, including major US manufacturers, Lockheed Martin and Textron. This action brought fresh attention onto the harm caused by cluster munitions and intensified the pressure on companies to cease production.
Consequently, Lockheed Martin stopped producing cluster munitions components by the end of 2013. In 2016, the last remaining US manufacturer of the weapons, Textron, said that it would also cease production. In a statement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Textron said that demand for cluster munitions had diminished and the “current political environment has made it difficult” to obtain the government approvals necessary for sales.
About 60 states still possess cluster munitions and they are still being used to kill and maim civilians. However, production has been cut dramatically and the stigma attached to cluster munitions has made it harder for many states to justify possessing or using them.