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.

World military spending surges to new heights

Last year, as the world unknowingly stood on the brink of the worst international crisis since World War Two in the form of the Coronavirus pandemic, its nations stood very well prepared… for war.

According to data published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military spending in 2019 amounted to at least $1,917 billion.

Continue reading “World military spending surges to new heights”

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.

New CAAT report on Military Expenditure and Climate Change

The UK government spends about £46.6 billion a year on the military, according to figures provided by the UK to NATO, or 2.1% of GDP.

* Government investment for a greener and fairer economy, Cafod, FoE, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, Islamic Relief, the WI, RSPB, and WWF, Sepember 2019.

After several years of relative austerity, this military budget is now firmly on the rise, with a 10% real-terms increase since 2015, and more increases promised.

How much, in comparison, does the UK spend on preventing climate change? There are no official figures, but a recent report by an NGO coalition* estimated annual spending on “climate change and nature” to be £17 billion, which they called to increase to £42 billion.

“The first duty of government is the security of the nation and its people” – such clichés are frequently trotted out in Government military and security policy documents; but the “security” in question is almost always seen in terms of state security, centring on the military and other “hard” security tools (such as border control).

This militaristic outlook is not simply about defending the UK from military attack – a remote prospect as even the government admits – but about using armed force to attempt to solve a wide range of problems, be it terrorism or regional tensions and conflicts.

This approach has led to a series of disastrous military interventions that have made the problems they sought to address far worse. It also reflects the idea that military power is the key to the UK’s status in the world, with ministers seeing a global military presence at the core of “Global Britain” post-Brexit.

But “security” does not have to be seen in these terms. A focus on sustainable, human security would reinterpret the “first duty” of government in terms of ensuring the security of people in the UK – and, inseparably, of people around the world – from the threats they actually face, which are overwhelmingly not susceptible to military “solutions”.

Most importantly, by far the biggest and most urgent threat to people’s security, including in the UK, is climate change, which is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide. Yet, while the government has accepted a target of reducing the UK’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 (which many see as too slow), it has not backed this up with the policies and resources needed to achieve it. The government’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned this year that the UK is missing almost all its targets for carbon reduction.

The CCC estimates that achieving net zero by 2050 would require investment of between 1–2% of GDP per year. Yet this is seen as unrealistic by a government that sees 2% of GDP as the absolute minimum to be spent on the military, to meet NATO’s 2% target for its members – with ministers (backed by the arms industry and its supporters) calling for far higher spending. This represents a distorted set of priorities, fuelled by a distorted, militaristic view of security, which urgently needs to change. Right now, the first duty of every government should be tackling the climate crisis.

‘Fighting The Wrong Battles – How Obsession With Military Power Diverts Resources From The Climate Crisis’ is a new report by Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman. Read the full report

Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 3: No Nuclear

Day three of the #StopDSEI protests saw a morning of back-to-back successful blockades of both entrances to the DSEI site, meaning vehicles carrying weapons and equipment were blocked from getting in.

Continue reading “Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 3: No Nuclear”

Arms race redux – SIPRI’s latest military expenditure data

World military spending is going up, according to data released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the most authoritative and comprehensive international source on military expenditure.1 According to SIPRI, the world total increased by 2.6% in real, inflation-adjusted terms, reaching an estimated $1,822 billion. The figure is almost certainly an underestimate, given that some countries are completely excluded due to a lack of data (notably Qatar, Syria, and North Korea). A number of other countries, typically those with large natural resource revenues such as the Gulf states, often exclude spending on arms imports from the limited information they publish, funding such purchases directly from oil revenues without including them in the official budget.

Continue reading “Arms race redux – SIPRI’s latest military expenditure data”

How the arms industry is hijacking EU policy

A new report “Securing Profits: How the arms lobby is hijacking Europe’s defence policy by Bram Vranken of the Flemish peace organisation Vredesactie documents the symbiotic relationship between arms industry lobby and the European Union.

Person wearing tie with pictures of weaponry in EU colours
Photo: Vrredesactie

In 2016 the European Union took the unprecedented step of setting up a military research programme worth 90 million euros, the so-called Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR). This is only a first step. For the next ten years, the European Commission proposes the establishment of a European Defence Fund which would allocate more than 40 billion euros to the research, development and procurement of weapons.

These steps signify a fundamental change to the European project. Although arms companies have received EU funding before, this has always happened through the ‘back door’ by way of a security research programme. The establishment of a EU military research programme points towards an unprecedented acceleration in the militarisation of the EU.

Continue reading “How the arms industry is hijacking EU policy”

No EU money for arms!

CAAT’s Ann Feltham reports on arms industry lobbying for EU subsidies, and the campaign to stop it.

anti-militarist EU flag symbolThe European Union had its genesis in the vision of post-World War Two leaders who believed that uniting countries economically would end the bloody wars between European neighbours. Military matters were not part of it, being seen as the province of national governments and not the EU. Today the EU’s founders must be spinning in their graves as cooperation for peace and human rights is undermined and the EU inches into the military sphere.

Continue reading “No EU money for arms!”

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?”