Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) is one of the world’s largest arms fairs. Supported by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Trade, it provides an opportunity for over 1600 arms companies to sell weapons and services to over 30,000 participants from more than 50 countries.
According to our government’s official statistics, on a rolling 10 year basis the UK remains the world’s second largest global ‘defence exporter’. It has an estimated 12% or £9 billion share of the global defence export market which is valued at close to $98 billion, the biggest it’s been in the past decade.
Behind every pound made in this trade is the reality of death, brutality, mutilation, and destruction of communities. Behind every company or government celebrating a new order or contract, lies the sorrow of bereavement, of childhood curtailed, of peace denied.
The recent victory of Campaign Against Arms Trade in the courts was a big step forward, rightly acclaimed. The Court of Appeal ruled that the government has failed to properly assess whether there have been breaches of International Humanitarian Law in arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. The government was forced to stop issuing new arms export licences and must suspend existing licences.
But this is by no means an isolated incident. As a recent report by research charity Action On Armed Violence (AOAV) shows, the UK is selling weapons to many countries engaged in human rights abuses. Every year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes a list of countries of concern over their human rights records yet the UK has granted arms exports to 29 of the 30 countries on the 2017 list over the previous decade.
The government claims to take its export control responsibilities very seriously, yet Bahrain, Colombia and Saudi Arabia, all on the FCO’s list, were named by the Department for International Trade as ‘core markets’ for ‘defence and security opportunities’.
Nuclear is part of this too. Arms companies are profiting from huge sums being spent on new nuclear weapons – and many of these will be present at DSEI.
It’s time to put a stop to this trade in death and potential annihilation. Please join us to protest at the anti-nuclear day at DSEI on September 4th: let’s call out BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin for their role in Trident and its replacement. Remaining silent is not an option.