Join us for our first ever Reading Group series! Following our ‘Arms Trade 101 and intersecting issues’ panel, we will delve deeper into some of the profound issues connected to the global arms trade over the course of 6 weeks with the help of some of the UK’s brightest critical thinkers.
Starting by setting the landscape with an overview of the arms trade by CAAT’s very own Andrew Smith, we will move through the weeks grappling with issues including the UK’s arming of Saudi Arabia and the devastating effects on Yemen; militarised policing, borders and migration, capitalism, colonialism as well as drawing connections between the current pandemic and the arms trade.
Wk 1: Arms Trade 101 (Thursday 16th July) with Andrew Smith (CAAT)
Wk 2: Stop Arming Saudi/ Yemen (Thursday 23rd July) with Sham Murad (‘A’ is for Activism)
Wk 3: Policing & the Arms Trade (Thursday 30th July) with Dr. Adam Elliott-Cooper
Wk 4: Borders & Migration & the Arms Trade (Thursday 6th August) with Dr. Nadine El-Enany
Wk 5: Coronavirus and the Arms Trade (Thursday 13th August) with Reem Abu-Hayyeh (MedAct)
Following a successful series of online trainings, join us for our first online panel event, focusing on building our understanding of how the global arms trade intersects with other key issues of our time, including racism, colonialism, climate (in)justice and militarised policing.
This week the Israeli government is expected to begin its immoral and illegal annexation of the West Bank. This follows years of increased tensions and atrocities: including shootings at protests on the Gaza border in May 2018.
Reports from health officials in Gaza say that Israeli forces killed at least 214 Palestinians throughout the 2018 protests. Last month Israeli forces killed the nephew of a senior Palestinian official at a checkpoint in the West Bank.
Despite ongoing abuses, and the threat of annexation, UK arms sales to Israel have continued unabated.
Today marks the one year anniversary since we won a landmark victory at the Court of Appeal, challenging the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
As a result of that ruling, we have stopped the export of new weapons for use in the war in Yemen. A multi-billion pound deal to sell more fighter jets to Saudi Arabia remains on hold.
This is significant progress, but there is much more to do. The government is fighting every step of the way to continue the arms sales. It is appealing to the Supreme Court for a final decision, with the hearing scheduled for 23-25 November.
Meanwhile it has still not complied with the Court of Appeal ruling that it should retake its previous decisions to allow weapons sales, and it is continuing to supply the war in Yemen.
As Black Lives Matter protests all over the world draw attention to the systemic racism inherent in so many of our institutions, we have investigated the extent of Glasgow University’s ties to the arms trade and other industries that profit from globalised violence.
Revelations published in the Glasgow Guardian in 2019 had previously exposed how the university was profiting from over £3 million of investments in the arms trade — resulting in student activists GUADC applying pressure to the university directly through a series of protests.
However, Glasgow’s investment portfolio only represents the surface of the university’s long-running relationship with arms companies.
The violent crackdown and use of rubber bullets and CS gas on peaceful protestors in the United States has shone a light on the increased militarisation of the police which is happening around the world. Tear gas, which can cause serious injuries, miscarriage, and even death, is a chemical weapon banned for use in war, yet it is widely used against civilians from Gaza to Minneapolis.
What is the UK’s role in all this?
Since 2010 the UK has licensed £2 million worth of Security and para-military police goods to the US police, and £18 million worth of ammunition sales to the US military and police, including crowd control ammunition, CS hand grenades, and tear gas. The USA is the second biggest buyer of UK arms in the world.
UK licensing rules prohibit arms exports where there is a clear risk they might be used in internal repression.
The UK doesn’t just license the sale of weaponry. It actively promotes the sale of crowd control equipment – and with it, the militarisation of policing – through multi-million pound arms fairs like the Defence and Security Equipment International.
The UK government should not be licensing this equipment, and increasing the militarisation of policing, anywhere. Right now, the public outcry against what is happening in the US gives us a window of opportunity to put pressure on.
Call on the Government to cancel these licences and send a clear message against US state violence and racial injustice.
Use this moment to speak out against racism here too.
While the UK government can revoke arms export licences to send the US Government a message, it certainly does not have any moral high ground on the issues of state violence and racism. As we demand an end to the licensing of arms of the type used to shut down Black Lives Matter protests, and justice for George Floyd’s family, we must also recognise the need to address our own racism problem in the UK.
For countless decades, black people have been fighting for an end to the deeply entrenched racial discrimination and inequality affecting the lives of black people and people of colour in the UK, rooted in our colonial past. From police violence, poorer health or education outcomes, to the inaction over the lives lost at Grenfell, or the focus of immigration detention and deportation policies on people of colour. As journalist Afua Hirsh puts it, the racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain.
As well as the continued demands for justice of the people living the experience of racism every day, research from the Race Disparity Audit, the Lammy Review, the Equality Commission, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Racism, E. Tendayi Achiume, all points to the same persistent exclusion and marginalisation of racial and ethnic minorities.
Find out more
The UK needs deep, structural change if we are to see true equality. And this begins with white people educating themselves and stepping up. If you are a white person wanting to find out more, or share information with other white people, here are a few places you could start.
As COVID-19 forces sweeping changes on our lives, our Government’s obsession with investing in military security over real human threats has been laid bare. Billions have been poured into aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons and war ships, but our health and social care services were on their knees even before the crisis hit.
Amidst the uncertainty, there is a ray of hope. For years CAAT and others have argued that arms company workers have the vital skills needed to build a new greener economy. Yet the political will needed was not there.
The urgency brought by the pandemic saw these blocks lifted almost overnight. Faced with a shortage of ventilators, many of the biggest arms companies including Thales, BAE and Airbus joined Ventilator Challenge UK, a consortium building ventilation equipment, showing how, with government support, change can happen on the factory floor.
At a time when millions of people across the world are concerned about food supplies and the ability of our health systems to respond to crisis, we must keep up the pressure for peace in Yemen, a country whose fragile health system has been devastated by five years of war.
This is a war supported by the UK government, with UK-based arms companies profiting from the destruction. Now more than ever, it is time for peace.
At the time of writing in early April, there are new reports of Saudi forces declaring a two week ceasefire. This is the second ceasefire to be reported in as many weeks – but we still have to still hope this one holds and is taken up by other parties to the conflict. The UK and other arms dealing governments can play their part by finally ending their arms sales and support for the continuing bombardment.