Report from Theme Group 2: Exposing the bad guys
There was general agreement about the trends.
- Governments face pressure on all budgets
- There are a lot of job losses, including in the arms industry, and workers fear for their jobs
- However in many countries there is a shortage of engineers
- There are now fewer arms companies than in the past because of industry consolidation
- Increasingly, arms are produced through joint ventures between companies in several different countries
- The manufacture is moving to places were labour is cheap and/or the purchasing country
- Arms companies are moving into the "homeland security" field (Israel was mentioned several times in this context with joint projects with EU countries - funded by the EU - and Elbit work on the US border with Mexico)
- War (in Gaza, Libya) is sometimes used as a marketing tool, but this is not always the case. It is not used by companies trying to sell fighters to Switzerland
- Frequently as a part of a growth in collaboration between industry generally and the educational sector, arms companies are linking with universities to do their research
- The financial sector is very important in sustaining the industry - banks, EU research funding, export credits.
- The US takes a strong line in controlling the use of its components going into equipment destined for third countries - for example, Brazil cannot sell to Venezuela because of US components.
- There is a lot of royal / head of government support for arms exports
- In several countries there is an active "revolving door" where former politicians and public officials move to arms companies
- The export criteria in the EU and several other places sound good, but the wish to sell overseas for profit or to reduce unit costs for domestic procurement means that there is ever greater pressure to export.
This is some of what, between us, we have done or heard that others have done.
a) As customers we have:
- challenged the financing of the arms trade
- work against banks like BBVA (which really hated the mock website) and Santander (can make an appointment at a branch to discuss your finances and then go in and discuss arms industry with the staff member);
- pension fund disinvestment initiatives;
- taken part in shareholder actions
- United Technologies over the Sikorski Black Hawk
- BAE Systems
- are there people who have suffered who could be bought a share and attend?
(a question: is it important to focus on one bank or company at a time to prevent them ganging up on us through their trade association / play them off against each other?)
- complained as students or academics about the university links with the arms industry or, more positively, we could see if there is any research work a university could do which might be useful for our campaigning;
- Students could also pledge not to take jobs with the military.
b) As citizens we:
- use petitions of well-known public figures (for example, in Finland they collecting signatures of those well known in the arts, politics etc;
- use debates - film and put them on You-tube for a wider audience;
- build good relationships with the government's arms control unit and other public employees;
- make submissions to parliament and take other opportunities to engage with the political process
- use available legal processes such as the Admin Courts in South Africa and referenda in Switzerland;
- use freedom of information legislation such as in the UK;
- try getting the EU to tighten its procedures without it realising the implications (the Israel boycott people have nearly managed to do this - more news shortly);
- see if trade unions can help.
c) We could do try interrupting the activities of the arms companies
- by throwing Raytheon's computers out of the window as in Derry;
- trespassing in Valencia.
but whatever we do we need to use the media, old and new, to let people know we are doing it.
Internationalising the issue
These are thing we thought could be taken forward:
- Eloisa in Barcelona and Rob in South Africa are going to look into the possibility of an academic chair researching the funding of war and the arms industry. It was suggested there might be money for this from Dutch ethical banks.
- There was interest in citizens inspections of arms factories / offices / arms fair and it might be good to have a common badge for the inspectors and official-looking inspection cards.
- Would an academic pledge not to work on drones be useful? Is this realistic or do they have good uses as well? This definitely needs investigation before any campaigning.
- It would be really useful if the email lists were sorted out so that they are simple to use and everyone knows what each one is for. (This was discussed further in the plenary.)
- The appropriate email list could be used for quick (10 minute) actions where you want groups to give support for your work such as the Israel EU funding.
- If doing bilateral work, it is good to look at both sides' trade statistics to see if what is exported and what is imported are reported in the same way.
- It would be good to have everyone's contact details (this is happening) and also to know the main work each group is doing. Where more than one group is campaigning on something, is there any way they could support each other? Examples were the EADS AGM as several groups have an interest in EADS, and Santander which has branches in the UK and Latin America as well as Spain.
- Multinational press releases are a good idea where this is appropriate. It is particularly useful to get to the press agencies and to the image agencies.
- Key documents need to be translated into English - Justicia i Pau person said that they had got a lot more recognition of their work once they translated research into English.
- It would be helpful to monitor and expose the arms companies' lobbying of the EU, but this would be a huge project.