Pensions invest millions in deadly drones

Human rights organisations say pensions should withdraw their investments that fund drones which are “terrorising” the civilian population in north Pakistan

Danish pension funds have invested in companies producing the unmanned drones that are being used by the US to attack militants in a covert war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.

According to British human rights organisation Reprieve, PensionDanmark alone has invested 125 million kroner in companies that produce drones that have killed over 3,000 people, including hundreds of children.

Catherine Gilfedder, Reprieve’s Corporate Social Responsibility Advocate, told The Copenhagen Post that the drones were inflicting significant harm on civilian populations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where the US is targeting militants from groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

“Drones in Pakistan hover over towns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, terrorising communities and killing innocent civilians,” Gilfedder said. “Corporations which profit from this campaign of terror should be held to account by their investors.  Danish entities which invest in these companies must consider the serious consequences of where they put their money and end their role in supporting this programme of terror.” 

PensionDanmark, which is responsible for the pensions of 620,000 Danes, has investments in ten companies that produce parts for the drones, including Boeing, Northrop Gruman, Honeywell, Cobham and General Electric.

The pension company has social responsibility guidelines that state: “If a company violates generally accepted norms, PensionDanmark will decide to exclude that company from its investment universe.”

It adds: “PensionDanmark does not invest in companies which deliberately and repeatedly violate laws and regulations […] or deliberately and repeatedly violate laws and regulations laid down by international organisations ratified by Denmark.”

As a result, they have blacklisted a range of companies involved in the manufacture of cluster bombs and mines, such as Hyundai Motor Company and Lockheed Martin, as well as companies implicated in corruption, such as News Corp.

But PensionDanmark’s CEO, Jens-Christian Stougaard, argued that there isn’t the same international consensus against the use of drones.

“We must admit that there are neither UN or EU sanctions against drones,” Stougaard told Information newspaper. “Because they are not illegal, there are no political sanctions against them, and it does not break our guidelines to invest in them, we see no reason to stop doing so.”

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the covert drone operation in Pakistan – which was started by former President George W Bush in 2004 and continued by the Obama administration – has killed over 3,000 people including as many as 885 civilians and 176 children.

According to a report, ‘Living under drones’, by Stanford University and New York University,  the drone campaign terrorises the population in northern Pakistan, where citizens attempt to live normal lives as drones circle above them.

“The presence of drones and the capacity of the US to strike anywhere at any time led to constant and severe fear, anxiety, and stress, [and] undermines people’s sense of safety to such an extent that it has at times affected their willingness to engage in a wide variety of activities, including social gatherings, educational and economic opportunities [and] funerals,” the report states.

While the Danish parliament tends to support  American global security efforts, such as in Afghanistan, Danish politicians have questioned the legitimacy of the American drone campaign.

“Obama is in a moral quagmire because there is not independent authority overseeing who is being targeted with these killings,” opposition MP Søren Pind (Venstre) told Politiken newspaper in July. “There is no court watching. Obama is ignoring the principles we normally advocate in the West.”

Enhedslisten’s defence spokesperson, Nikolaj Villumsen, has called on increased legislation on the use of unmanned drones.

“It cannot be right that the USA is using technology that allows them to perform killings all over the world without trials or regulations,” Villumsen told the online news source Arbejderen. “The [foreign] minister needs to state Denmark’s position on drones and make it clear whether he will work toward tightening the international rules about the use of drones.”

Villumsen is calling on the Danish government to follow the lead of the Norwegians, whose foreign and defence ministries have stated that there is a need for clearer rules about the use of unmanned drones.

Any political pressure to stop investment in drone technology might not be forthcoming from the Danish government, however, after it agreed in May to help finance five new drones for NATO after pressure from the American president, Barack Obama.

Other Danish pensions to invest in companies that help produce drones include PFA, Nordea Liv og Pension, Danica Pension and Unipension.

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