The Financial factor: Campaigns against the role of banks and Export Credit Agencies in financing arms trade


On May 13 in Ghent Belgium, ENAAT (European Network Against Arms Trade) together with the local host Netwerk Vlaanderen, Vrede, Forum voor Vredesactie and For Mother Earth, organised a strategy meeting for campaigners, working on the links between private financial institutions/governmental Export Credit Agencies and the arms industry.

Campaigns against private financial institutions have been successful in the past years. The “My Money Clear Conscience” campaign against the investment of Belgian bank groups in weapons has been successful in getting four large bank groups to scale down their investments in weapon producers.

The reflection around the campaign was that so far the campaign had been successful. Key points for its success were producing high quality reports, having a good strategy for involving the media in the campaign, and creative street action to make the campaign visible in the streets.

There are still some challenges: The campaign has been successful especially in getting banks withdrawing from financing companies involved in the manufacture of land mines, and cluster bombs, where the losses for the companies were not too relevant. But it had not been successful in getting banks to withdraw from the nuclear industry.
Another challenge was the need of further European cooperation as many banks stop investing in one country but move to another. And local groups can not go chancing the companies through all Europe, so a better European network is needed to follow these companies where ever they try to go.

“My Money Clear Conscience” has started a new step in their campaign demanding that banks stop investment related to human rights abuses. This step is a big challenge as human rights is much broader than campaigning against investment in arms trade.

Other groups in Europe also have carried out their own campaigns. In Britain, CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) has been running the "Clean Investment Campaign" since 1991. In Italy, the Campagna Di Banche Armate succeeded in convincing Banca Intesa, the largest Italian bank group, to adopt a stricter and more transparent weapon investment policy. Other organisations like Spas (Sweden) have work on the investments of Pension Funds.

Together with campaigns against private financial institutions the strategy meeting focused on the role of Export Credit Agencies, and their policies on arms exports to developing countries. The impact of the growth of irresponsible corporate globalisation and national debt in the global south export credit agencies is as big - if not bigger - than better-known institutions like the World Bank and the WTO. A considerable amount of their credits is for arms exports, out of all credits possibly the worst ...and today more than ever there is a need for stronger campaigns at an European level to stop them.

Nick Hildyard from the Corner House in the UK said that a successful campaign needs to target all the chain. Campaigning against the governments who want to buy military equipment; the arms traders who want to sell them; private financial institutions that give credit to the governments and the Export Credit Agencies who provide the insurance
to the private financial institutions. To stop the arms trade requires a global coordinated effort.

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