Clubbing, Chilling and Campaigning

Isabel and I went to the Synergy Project last night. It was great fun! We took my friend Larissa from Ukraine along who is visiting at the moment. She said she had never seen so many alternative-looking people in one place. At the moment she is still in bed recovering from sub-culture shock :).

We set up the CAAT stall quite nicely. Here it is:
CAAT stall at the Synergy Project

People were really chilled and friendly and it was great chatting to them about CAAT’s work. We handed out flyers about our BAE Systems AGM protest on 9 May and about the Reed Elsevier campaign (this is the publishing house which besides academic publishing likes to run arms fairs). Our FREE CAAT badges were really popular with people.

I loved the atmosphere and the conversations. One nice guy told me he’s just been to see Landscape with Weapon at the NT and apparently it’s great. So I thought I’d share this with you.

The rest of the night was dancing…

Stop the Death Trade in London

London CAAT met at 11am today to start our “Central London Arms Trade Crawl” outside BAE’s headquarters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in this first leg we were emphasising the corrupt nature of the trade in death in our home city. The secluded Carlton Gardens, where the firm that the government won’t allow to be investigated for corruption shares a building with investment bankers, is a few hundred metres from Buckingham Palace. Crime evidently pays very well.

After forty minutes of chatting with and handing out leaflets to some of the people coming in and out of the building and those around it we began the short journey to the far busier Haymarket. At noon we were outside New Zealand House, which houses the offices of Land Rover Leyland International Holdings, the parent company of Ashok, which agreed to sell military trucks to Sudan despite the embargo there. The focus here was on the indiscriminate nature of the trade and the mention of Darfur was a definite catalyst for passers by to agree to sign our petition.
Continue reading “Stop the Death Trade in London”

News from Bristol

Sorry I am so late in posting this. But it is a good time for it, as we have just had a successful public meeting this evening organised by Bristol CAAT, on the title “A law unto themselves: BAE, the arms trade and corruption”. The speakers were Nick Gilby (fellow blogger here) and Nick Hildyard of Cornerhouse.

We relaunched Bristol CAAT just about two years ago – we’ve been a bit on and off to be honest, based most of the time round a few most active people, but we’ve managed to put on a number of pretty good events – public meetings, dayschools, forums, protests at careers fairs where arms companies were recruiting and the like – as well as a very good research programme carried out by students at Bristol University, Tom, Maeve and Sarika, pulling together information on the activities of local arms company bases – including major BAE and Rolls Royce plants. Lately, we’ve had a few new people getting involved and enthused, so we’re hoping to become more active in the near future.
Continue reading “News from Bristol”

Stop civil servants pushing arms!

Hi, it’s Anne here – a brand new CAAT volunteer. I was down at the Shut DESO demonstration yesterday. DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation) is a government agency which promotes the UK arms export business. It employs about 500 civil servants. About thirty people turned up which is great for a mid-morning, mid-week demo. DESO were holding their annual symposium at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre near Westminster Abbey, and we stood outside waving our banners and handing out leaflets to passers-by. Around 300 leaflets were handed out so lots of people will get the chance to learn about the influence of arms companies on government policies and CAATs campaign to Shut DESO.

CAAT supporters protesting at the DESO annual symposium

It was a lovely morning standing in the sunshine talking to other protesters. Some of whom had come from as far a field as Reading and Cambridge. At 1:00pm we made our way round the corner to the Treasury to hand in a petition calling for the closure of DESO. It had been signed by over 10,000 people including such prominent names as writer George Monbiot, comedian Mark Thomas and economist Samuel Brittan. CAAT staffer Anna Jones and Chris Cole from the Fellowship of Reconciliation handed in the petition at the front desk.

Rikki from Indymedia came down to bear witness. Look at the fantastic pictures he took!

UCL UNION votes to support the Disarm UCL campaign !

I’ve been so busy lately that I forgot to tell you about this really cool campaigning success we had at Disarm UCL last week:

Quick reminder: we are campaigning to get UCL to sell its disgraceful 1.5 million pounds worth of arms shares. We tried to get UCL Union support on this. And now we’ve got it 🙂

We presented our motion for ethical investment at the UCL Union Council meeting and they voted overwhelmingly in favour of our motion ! The motion states that the Union will fully support our campaign to get UCL to divest its’ shares in arms companies Cobham plc and Smiths Group. Read the details here.

This is fantastic news for us. Continue reading “UCL UNION votes to support the Disarm UCL campaign !”

Bribing for Britain

On Thursday 15th March I am giving a talk to the very active Bristol CAAT group. Do come along if you can – details are here.

The subject is very topical – corruption. The title of my talk will be “the Ministry of Defence and the bribe culture: from active participation to passive complicity”.

It is easy to think in the current climate with the focus of corruption allegations very much on BAE Systems that the root of the problem lies with them alone. But the British Government is not as clean as it likes to point out.

In 2003 the MoD attacked a Guardian article which stated that “The government’s own arms sales department [DESO] is directly implicated in bribery abroad”. Continue reading “Bribing for Britain”

Getting ready to SHUT DESO !

I’m getting ready for the SHUT DESO protest next Wednesday.

DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation) is a government agency that identifies potential opportunities for arms sales, then works with the arms companies and other elements of government to push for deals.

I really don’t believe that UK tax payers money should be spent on paying around 500 civil servants to help arms companies sell their products. Surely arms companies are pretty capable of selling arms to countries with a dubious human rights record all by themselves. What the hell is the UK government doing helping them?

Read more on DESO.
Continue reading “Getting ready to SHUT DESO !”

CAAT celebrates BAE defeat in court !

CAAT staff and supporters were down at the High Court yesterday. Some weeks ago one of Britain’s leading arms companies, BAE Systems, got hold of a confidential CAAT document and wouldn’t tell anyone how.

Well – now they have to :). The High Court ruled yesterday that BAE Systems has to deliver a sworn legally binding statement telling us how they obtained the confidential information.

It’s a great victory for us! Continue reading “CAAT celebrates BAE defeat in court !”

CAAT postcards on the “Troops out” march

Just got back from the Troops out march in central London.

I was out and about with friends at the march handing out CAAT postcards with a couple of questions:

The last postcard at the end of the march on Trafalgar Square

Did I give one to you?

Here are the answers:
How many human rights abusers and countries in conflict does the UK supply with arms?
The UK supplies arms indiscriminately to human rights abusers and countries in conflict. In 2005, UK arms export licences were approved to 12 of the 20 ‘major countries of concern’ identified by the UK government’s own Human Rights Annual Report. These countries included Indonesia, Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia – beneficiary of the UK’s largest ever arms export programme despite a human rights situation in Saudi described by Amnesty International as “dire”.

Also in 2005, there were 17 major armed conflicts underway, many of them sustained with UK weaponry. The governments of Colombia, Nepal and Uganda, were fighting rebel armies, Russia was at war in Chechnya, India in Kashmir, Israel in the Palestinian territories, and the US along with several other countries including of course the UK) was at war with Iraqi insurgents – all of these countries were supplied by the UK. Furthermore, arms companies have no qualms about selling to both sides in a conflict, for example China and Taiwan, India and Pakistan all receive a steady stream of UK weapons.

How does the arms trade undermine attempts to reduce poverty?
According to the United Nations, seven countries in the global South spend more on the military than on health and education combined. For many other countries, military spending diverts much needed resources from social services. In 2001, for instance, the UK government encouraged Tanzania to spend £28 million on a British manufactured military air traffic control system, when all that was needed was a civilian one at an eighth of the cost. Half of Tanzania does not have regular access to clean water, and the country receives substantial amounts of aid from the UK and other countries.

Small arms exports also fuel conflicts, such as that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with obvious and catastrophic impacts on development. In other places, military spending by one country can provoke a regional arms race, India and Pakistan being an obvious example. Overall, the cost of arms sales and the conflicts they help to sustain have a massive and disastrous effect on the possibility of sustainable development in the world’s poorest countries.

Which arms company is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office after multiple allegations of corruption?
BAE Systems, formerly British Aerospace, has been the subject of a Serious Fraud Office corruption investigation since 2003, when a whistleblower alleged that the company operated a £60 million ‘slush fund’ for Saudi officials involved in arms deals. In 2005 the investigation was widened to Chile after it was alleged that BAE Systems had paid more than £1m to intermediaries, linked to ex-president Pinochet, in return for arms deals. SFO investigators have since extended the investigation to take in BAE Systems’ dealings with the Czech Republic, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania.

However, last December, with a sale of BAE Systems Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia in the offing, the government curtailed the Saudi Arabia investigation. The response was widespread criticism, not least from institutional investors, the OECD and 130 non-governmental organisations. CAAT and the Corner House have informed the government of their intention to judicially review the decision. While investigations into the dealings with other countries continue, Saudi Arabia had been the focus of SFO activity.

Recent developments in the legal challenge and SFO investigation are available here.

Why do arms companies have their own marketing unit in the heart of the UK government?
Arms companies wield immense influence and political power within government, enjoying privileged access to decision-makers that the general public can only dream of. Corporate influence at the heart of government is exemplified by the existence of DESO (the Defence Export Services Organisation) a marketing unit of 500 civil servants that is dedicated to selling arms exports and is run by an arms industry boss.

The government gives a range of disingenuous arguments for supporting the arms trade; from the economy, to national security and international peace and stability. Their real, underlying motivations are complex, but perhaps the single most significant factor is the relationship between arms companies and the government. An intricate web of links gives arms companies unparalleled influence in determining government policy. This is the rationale behind CAAT’s Call the Shots campaign, which is presently focused on DESO.

How can you stop your money being used to subsidise and support arms sales?
Government subsidies for arms exports amount to around £900 million. Just imagine what else could be done with that money. New schools and hospitals maybe, or a massive increase in the amount we spend on conflict prevention. But instead the government gives it to the arms industry to sell military equipment and increase suffering around the world. One of CAAT’s main priorities is to stop this.

More generally, CAAT campaigns in the UK for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the arms trade, together with progressive demilitarisation in arms producing countries. We produce reports, lobby MPs and ministers, organise protests and facilitate local campaigning. But we couldn’t do it without our supporters.

We send out our bi-monthly magazine, CAATnews, to anyone who wants it. It’s packed with articles about the arms trade as well as campaigning ideas, and it’s easy to sign up to receive it. There are lots of other ways to get involved in our campaigns, or to help us financially, so please do what you can.

It was great to bump into some of the other CAAT activists, who were handing out the postcards, too.

Thanks for being out there with me!