Feed in to the government review of security policy

The UK Cabinet Office is in the final week of calls for evidence to its ‘Integrated Review’ – a major overhaul of its military, security, foreign and international development policy. The Prime Minister describes it as “the biggest assessment of Britain’s place in the world since the end of the Cold War”, a look at how the UK can adjust “to the changing nature of threats we face”. It’s a good question. As the country is still reeling from the government’s lack of preparation for the global pandemic (which had been predicted in its own security reviews), adjusting strategies and budgets is very timely.

There are fears among military circles that Downing Street advisor Dominic Cummings wants to cut army troops and axe costly aircraft carriers. He has described spending on aircraft carriers as a “farce”, “enriching some of the worst corporate looters and corrupting public life via the revolving door of officials/lobbyists”. However his real interest is in small but deadly high-tech drones and other new technologies. Media reports have claimed that Defence Minister Ben Wallace is “incredibly supportive” of Cummings’ ideas.

The PM has said he will not roll back on commitments to exceed the NATO target of spending 2% of the UK’s budget on military spending, or to maintain the nuclear deterrent. However this was before the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent days, the Chancellor has announced a potential roll back on the Party’s Manifesto promise to protect foreign aid.

Controversial decisions are being considered, but core assumptions aren’t changing. The number one finding of this review should be that the government’s definition of security needs to be completely rethought.

The last few months gave many of us pause for thought about many things. About the inequalities in our society, with the key workers who put themselves most at risk to keep our health, food and care systems going – being paid and protected the least in society. About the disproportionate death rates of the virus for people of colour, who are also more likely to be working in key worker roles and more at risk of being exposed.

About the escalating climate crisis behind the unprecedented heat waves. Extreme weather events, food insecurity and conflict are already impacting on people across the globe – predominantly people of colour, predominantly countries still recovering from centuries of colonialism and slavery by the same nations who created the climate crisis today.

And with the death of George Flloyd, and the use of tear gas on protestors, (a product we have exported to the US) about the impacts of the UK arms exports, as well as the racism engrained in every structure of our society too. Black people are policed, criminalised, and killed more than white, and migrants are left to drown rather than be offered sanctuary in the 9th richest country in the world, home to less than 1% of its refugees.

The crisis has brought to the surface these questions of human security that urgently need addressing, and this review must include changes to create the fairer society promised in the Conservative Party’s election Manifesto.

Even the Director of Military Sciences at industry think tank Royal United Services Institute notes that this is a critical question in the Integrated Review. He says that the pandemic has “brought into stark relief a question of whether the government’s first duty is actually to protect its people from external threats – as it is often asserted – or whether ensuring the domestic safety and protecting the quality of life of its people matter even more.”

We need a radical rethinking, to create an alternative vision of Security. We need to move funding away from promoting and subsidising the arms trade, and into renewable energy and technologies, working to protect the rights of those in the countries where the minerals that power them are sourced. And we need fairer societies, strong public services that create a secure and safe environment for everyone.

Send your message to the government review now.

Glasgow University continues to support arms companies

In this guest post, David Bloomfield from the Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition (GUADC)  provides an update on the campaign against Glasgow University investments in the arms trade. Unfortunately a similar story can be told about universities across the UK. We recommend reading this post as background.

At the end of June, the University of Glasgow decided to retain the bulk of its £3 million worth of investments in some of the world’s largest arms companies, including BAE Systems, Airbus and Boeing.

The decision to keep profiting from the arms trade was made despite a fierce campaign by the student group Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition (GUADC) and concerned members of the community. As has been pointed out again and again, weapons produced by the huge arms companies that the University has chosen to invest in have been linked to serious war crimes across the world. The University has publicly proclaimed that ‘#BlackLivesMatter’, but it has refused to accept that the bombs it profits from have been used to kill people around the world.

Continue reading “Glasgow University continues to support arms companies”

Coronavirus and the Arms Trade

We hope all CAAT’s supporters are well and keeping safe. A lot of CAAT’s work will be evolving over the coming months as we adapt to the current crisis. Staff are working remotely, local group meetings and activities are moving online, and we’re looking at how Covid-19 interlinks with our different areas of work.

Some parts of the arms trade are on hold too. The biennial arms fair at Farnborough, where weapons were due to be promoted to military buyers from around the world, has already been cancelled. But in other areas it’s important we maintain our scrutiny.

Increase in state powers and policing

From ramped up surveillance of citizens in China and Singapore to accusations of a racist, politicised response in Sri Lanka, governments globally are responding with measures that some fear could outlast the pandemic, and further harm marginalised groups. 

The UK Government’s COVID-19 Bill contains powers lasting two years which give police new rights to detain people. While this may make some feel safer, it’s a worrying move while people of colour are already subjected to disproportionate levels of detention and state violence in the UK. Read more about the new laws.

There is already evidence of ‘authoritarian leaders using the Covid-19 crisis to tighten their grip’ with the pandemic used to advance Orban’s power grab in Hungary – and the government’s control in Cambodia, while  teargas and other crowd-control equipment has been used to violently enforce controls.

Yemen 

As yet there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 within Yemen, but five long years of catastrophic war have destroyed its healthcare system. Ahmed Aidarous, 36, a resident of the southwestern city of Taiz, told the Middle East Eye, “Advanced countries like America are unable to fight coronavirus so Yemen will be an easy victim for corona as there is no good health system or good leadership that can help.”

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government has closed schools and cancelled all flights, which had only just resumed for people who needed to leave the country to access healthcare abroad. Mwatana for Human Rights reports that at least 45 people had already lost their lives waiting for promised humanitarian flights to access healthcare.

We took action this month to mark five years of war in Yemen, and stand together in solidarity and resistance. While coronavirus means there is a risk that the  war is forgotten, it’s as important as ever that we keep up the pressure for peace and end UK arms sales.  

Borders

Protestors hold a banner saying 'Borders kill' at a demo outside the Home Office, February 2020
Activists protest the Home Office and its Hostile Environment policies, February 2020.

The first case of Covid-19 has been diagnosed at Yarl’s Wood, the immigration detention Centre in Bedford which holds survivors of torture and sexual violence, and where racist verbal, physical and sexual abuse have been reported. Already experiencing high levels of mental distress and self harm, now detainees face the risk of infection by Covid-19.

The Centre is run by the world’s 73rd largest arms company Serco Group, who work closely with the UK military sector, winning £92m of Ministry of Defence contracts in 2018. A legal case related to the health crisis forced the Government to release 300 detainees recently, but thousands remain detained across the UK. There have been over 30 deaths reported in UK immigration centres, and thousands of attempted suicides.

CAAT is developing its thinking around UK borders policy, as the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration strategy is part of a wider racist, state sponsored violence that keeps weapons flowing to countries where they predominantly harm people of colour.

It is also some of the same arms companies profiting from weapons sales causing many to flee their homes which profit again when they win lucrative contracts to provide security services and surveillance technologies at increasingly militarised borders. Find out more about the companies profiting twice. 

Arms to ventilators?

 In these turbulent and challenging times we will be looking for hope too – that in future when governments tell us things can’t change, we know that change can come almost overnight when the political will is there. 

Rolls Royce, who produce military aircraft engines, and aerospace companies like Airbus which profit from the sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, have been called on by the UK government to help produce components for ventilators in the fight against coronavirus. The case for moving our engineering skills from industries that take lives to ones that save them has never been stronger.

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, recently called government economic stimulus packages in response to the coronavirus crisis as “a historic opportunity” to tackle the climate emergency.  “This is a huge opportunity we cannot miss,” he said. “Here the issue is not only the level of money but the direction of the money”.

Find out more about the call to convert jobs in arms manufacturing to greener, more socially useful industries in the New Lucas Plan

A small hand sewn banner reads 'Choose people', hung at the DSEI arms fair week of action, 2019
A banner at the DSEI arms fair week of action, 2019.

Rethinking ‘security’

We can also see more than ever that our security is not advanced by wars, or by spending billions on nuclear weapons systems and aircraft carriers, but by building fairer societies that support the most vulnerable, and by investing in our public services like the NHS and social care.

Let’s work together to ensure that out of this crisis we create a Just Recovery, and build a world where real human needs, are prioritised.

The election is over – what next?

Cartoon saying "Now What?!!"

The outcome of the General Election and the daunting prospect of continued austerity and increased cuts to public services has no doubt left many campaigners feeling deflated. There is no way around it- the next five years will be challenging and difficult.

Continue reading “The election is over – what next?”

Time to Act: No War! No Warming!

730timetoactIn his book Capitalist Realism: Is There no Alternative? Mark Fisher sharply argues that when it comes to thinking about changing entrenched social norms and priorities our lives have become dominated by an attitude of resignation and fatalism.

Fisher’s argument can be easily applied to mainstream discourses around climate change and militarism. Just as capitalism dominates the horizon of the possible, talks and ideas for a future without fossil fuels and wars are often rejected as mere utopian fantasy. Indeed, the ‘no alternative’ ideology has such a totalising effect that many seemingly treat ecological catastrophe and the arms trade as facts of nature that simply cannot be reversed, despite hard evidence and rational arguments for the opposite. Continue reading “Time to Act: No War! No Warming!”

Kicking arms companies off campus

Protesters stall covered in alternative information about BAE
BAE Systems: Graduate schemes in warmongering

Tom Greenwood and Beth Smith reflect upon an excellent year of student campaigning, and outline the ways in which students and staff can get involved in the year ahead.

Arms companies need universities and they need university students. Universities produce the skilled graduates that the industry requires and undertake research necessary for technological developments. Some universities even invest money in the arms industry, often without the knowledge or approval of their students or staff.

This year, students all over the UK have taken action to show arms companies that they are not welcome at their universities. By kicking arms companies off our campuses, we have the power to hit them where it hurts!

Continue reading “Kicking arms companies off campus”

National Action Day in Nottingham

On Wednesday 11th February, a group of students staged a die-in protest to highlight the University of Nottingham’s extensive links with arms companies. This protest was held as part of a national day of action against the arms trade, called by Campaign Against the Arms Trade Universities Network.

Click here for the full story on Indymedia

 

 

Return of Red Warwick

Warwick occupationBarnaby Pace updates us on the current wave of anti-arms activism to sweep the nations universities: –

Since 12.30 yesterday a number of Warwick students have occupied our SO.21 lecture theatre. We are demanding firstly that the university help the victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict by sending textbooks and computer equipment, restoring the ability of students in the region to use their right to education. The university should inform students about the issues by funding a series of talks on the conflict. Importantly we feel that the university should end its complicity in the conflict by severing its ties to the arms trade. Our university promotes arms companies in an unquestioning positive light at careers events, does research for arms companies in our academic departments and has university finances invested in funds which do not preclude arms trade investments, and this is an unacceptable status quo. Continue reading “Return of Red Warwick”