Pension funds divest from cluster bomb firms

Two of Sweden’s public pension funds announced plans on Monday to sell their holdings in companies involved in the manufacturing of cluster bombs.

Pension funds divest from cluster bomb firms

Both the First and the Third National Pension Funds (AP1 and AP3) are going ahead with the sale following a recommendation from the Ethical Council of the Swedish National Pension Funds.

“The issue concerns inhuman weapons that often injure innocent civilians, an issue that demands action which now has the support of a convention that bans such weapons,” said Carl Rosén, chair of the Ethical Council, in a statement.

In May, Sweden endorsed an international convention banning cluster munitions, prompting many to question whether it was appropriate for the country’s state pension funds to invest in companies that manufactured the weapons.

The Ethical Council ultimately found that the companies contravene the convention and recommended that the First to Fourth Swedish National Pension Funds exclude a number of defence companies from their investment portfolios.

Among the companies to be excluded are several large American defence contractors, including Alliant Techsystems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, and Raytheon.

Two South Korean firms, Hanwha Corporation and Poongsan, are also included in the ban.


Sweden world’s 13th most peaceful nation

Sweden has been ranked the 13th most peaceful country in the world by a global peace index, down from 11th in 2014.

Sweden world's 13th most peaceful nation
Sweden's arms trade is keeping it down in the rankings. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

According to the 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI), recently released by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Iceland remains the world's most peaceful country.

Sweden's other Nordic neighbours Denmark, Finland and Norway all ranked in the top 20, taking the second, sixth and 17th spots respectively.

Denmark also came in second in the 2013 and 2014 reports, each time snapping at the heels of Iceland, which has been declared the world's most peaceful country each year since 2008.

According to the report, 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries in the world are in Europe, while the Middle East and North Africa remain the most violent regions in the world. The United States was at number 94, while Syria was at the very bottom of the 162-country list.

“The most substantial changes in the Index occurred in the Middle East and North Africa where several countries suffered from an upsurge in violence related to sectarian strife and civil conflicts,” the report noted.

Like in previous years, Sweden, which in 2014 celebrated two centuries of peace, is kept down in the rankings largely because it sells arms to other countries.

Despite enjoying a global reputation for peacemaking and generous foreign aid, the Scandinavian nation is the world's 11th largest exporter of weapons, including Saab's Jas Gripen jets, and has counted a number of regimes criticized for human rights abuses as its customers since the Cold War ended, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

READ ALSO: Sweden scraps controversial Saudi arms deal

The GPI comprises 23 indicators of the existence of violence or fear of violence, which include metrics such as the level of perceived criminality in the society, impact of terrorism, and military expenditure as percentage of the country's gross domestic product.

Each of the indicators for a given country is graded on a scale of one to five and then indexed into a final score, which can then be compared against other countries.

Sweden's indexed score was 1.36 while Iceland's was 1.148. In comparison, Syria's score was 3.645. Notably, Sweden scored around 1.0 or at least below 2.0 in nearly all areas apart from 'weapons exports' in which it received 5 out of 5.

A video explainer from the Institute for Economics and Peace is below and an interactive map can be accessed here