This September, thousands of people took part in two weeks of effective action against the DSEI arms fair, but we were acting for millions more across the UK. One thing we always have to remember is that public opinion is firmly on our side and that the overwhelming majority of people across the country are appalled by events like DSEI.
The scale of that opposition was made clear in a recent poll of over 2000 adults, conducted by Opinium LLP on behalf of CAAT. It found that:
- 76% of UK oppose the government’s role in promoting arms exports to countries with poor human rights records (only 6% disagree)
- 64% believe that the government should NOT be involved in organising arms fairs that human rights abusing regimes are invited to (only 10% disagree)
- 63% of people oppose arms sales to countries that are NOT democracies (only 9% disagree)
The guest list for DSEI had a number of dictatorships and human rights abusing regimes on it, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. The polling shows that the public also overwhelmingly opposes arms exports to these countries.
- 68% oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia (only 12% support them)
- 68% oppose arms sales to Turkey (only 13% support them)
- 67% oppose arms sales to Egypt (only 11% support them)
The overwhelming majority of the public oppose arms exports to brutal and oppressive regimes, yet the arms sales keep flowing.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the full support of civil servants and government ministers, who played a central role in organising DSEI and have consistently prioritised arms sales over human rights.
One positive change over recent months has been the huge shift in parliament towards challenging arms sales to human rights abusers. The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru all stood at the recent election on manifestos that explicitly called for an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and for tighter restrictions on arms exports across the board.
We need to do all we can to continue mobilising public opinion and keep the pressure on government ministers and arms companies, in order to ultimately stop events like DSEI and end UK complicity in human rights abuses around the world. Please sign and share the online call to shut down DSEI.