Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
( 2012 , UK )

...for their innovative and effective campaigning against the global trade in arms.

As long as arms promotion is seen as the business of government there is no prospect of arms control.


The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has since 1974 worked tirelessly to end UK arms exports. CAAT has increased public awareness of the arms trade, and through relentless advocacy has helped to restrain UK export subsidies to arms companies, and pressured institutions into disinvesting from arms exporters. CAAT has exposed the corruption, hypocrisy and lethal consequences around this trade and has been instrumental in holding the UK government and arms companies to account for the same. In particular, it has placed BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest arms companies, under unprecedented scrutiny over its unethical practices.

Contact

Campaign Against Arms Trade
Unit 4
5-7 Wells Terrace
London N4 3JU
UK

Email: henry@caat.org.uk
Phone: +44 20 7281 02 97

http://www.caat.org.uk/

Biography

History and objectives

Founded by a broad and diverse coalition of peace groups concerned about the growth of the arms trade following the Middle East war of 1973, CAAT’s main focus is to end the influence of arms companies over the UK government, a principal exporter of weapons, and it works together with similar organisations in other countries to raise international awareness.

In seeking to end the arms trade, CAAT’s priorities are:

1. To stop the procurement or export of arms where they might
-exacerbate conflict, support aggression, or increase tension
-support an oppressive regime or undermine democracy
-threaten social welfare through the level of military spending

2. To end all government, political and financial support for arms exports, and

3. To promote progressive demilitarisation within arms-producing countries.

CAAT considers that security needs to be seen in much broader terms that are not dominated by military and arms company interests. A wider security policy would have the opportunity to reallocate resources according to actual threats and benefits, including addressing major causes of insecurity such as inequality and climate change.

Based in North London, CAAT operates a non-hierarchical structure amongst its 9 paid staff, and its apex decision-making body is a Steering Committee elected by its members. It is supported in its work by a large number of volunteer activists, and assisted by its Christian Ne …

Founded by a broad and diverse coalition of peace groups concerned about the growth of the arms trade following the Middle East war of 1973, CAAT’s main focus is to end the influence of arms companies over the UK government, a principal exporter of weapons, and it works together with similar organisations in other countries to raise international awareness.

In seeking to end the arms trade, CAAT’s priorities are:

1. To stop the procurement or export of arms where they might
-exacerbate conflict, support aggression, or increase tension
-support an oppressive regime or undermine democracy
-threaten social welfare through the level of military spending

2. To end all government, political and financial support for arms exports, and

3. To promote progressive demilitarisation within arms-producing countries.

CAAT considers that security needs to be seen in much broader terms that are not dominated by military and arms company interests. A wider security policy would have the opportunity to reallocate resources according to actual threats and benefits, including addressing major causes of insecurity such as inequality and climate change.

Based in North London, CAAT operates a non-hierarchical structure amongst its 9 paid staff, and its apex decision-making body is a Steering Committee elected by its members. It is supported in its work by a large number of volunteer activists, and assisted by its Christian Network and Universities Network.

Challenging BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia arms deal
In September 1985, BAE was a signatory to the UK’s largest ever arms deal, the Al Yamamah contract to provide military planes as well as servicing provisions to the government of Saudi Arabia. Rumours of corruption soon surfaced, and allegations of corruption have been a recurrent feature in subsequent arms deals to Saudi Arabia throughout the last two decades. In 2004, following revelations about a £60 million “slush fund” and allegations that the BAE, with approval of the UK Government, had made payments worth hundreds of millions of pounds since 1985 to Saudi personal bank accounts, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began an investigation. CAAT, in conjunction with Corner House, an anti-corruption NGO, mounted a legal challenge after the SFO decided to end its investigation in December 2006 under pressure from the UK government.

On 10th April 2007, the High Court in London concluded that the SFO had indeed acted illegally in stopping its corruption investigation. On 30th July, however, the House of Lords overturned the High Court’s ruling, and decreed that the SFO had acted lawfully in the interest of national security.

While BAE escaped serious legal sanction, CAAT’s work highlighted the morally questionable nature of the practices of both BAE and the UK Government, and subjected the arms industry to greater public scrutiny.

Hampering subsidies to arms companies

The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) provides loan guarantees to UK exporters, both civil and military. From the 1970s onwards, the ECGD insured exports of Hawk aircraft, Scorpion tanks and other military equipment to the brutal dictatorship of General Suharto in Indonesia. Evidence shows that this equipment was used against the civilian population, including during the vicious attacks on East Timor.

CAAT has campaigned for years to end government subsidy of arms exports. ECGD subsidies to the defence sector, which constituted 57% of all ECGD subsidies given in 2007-2008, amounted to only 1% of subsidies in 2011-2012. It is clear that CAAT’s actions have helped to restrain the government subsidy available to arms companies to export their products.

Opposing Arms Fairs

Arms Fairs are trade exhibitions for the military industry and an important part of the international arms trade. The UK’s largest arms fair, Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi), takes place in London every second year. Arms Fairs allow the weapons manufacturers to promote their products to potential customers, including regimes in conflict and those with terrible human rights records.

After years of innovative and effective ‘naming and shaming’ campaigns led by CAAT, Reed-Elsevier, the multinational company that owned the arms fair, pulled out of hosting it in 2007. CAAT now focuses on shaming the UK government and the present owners, Clarion Events.

Promoting ethical investment and opposing unethical sponsorships

From universities to local authorities, CAAT has consistently sought to highlight areas where bodies with ethical aspirations hold shares in companies trading in arms. CAAT’s Clean Investment campaign has had many past successes, one of the most significant occurring in 2001. In response to pressure from the CAAT Christian Network, the Church of England redefined its investment criteria and confirmed it would no longer invest in arms companies. Further, CAAT’s Universities Network’s effective campaigns resulted in the University of St. Andrews adopting an ethical investment policy and University College London creating an ethical investment committee that reviews all investments.

In October 2012, following a campaign by CAAT to ‘Disarm the Gallery’, the National Gallery’s long-standing sponsorship arrangement with weapons manufacturer Finmeccanica got terminated one year early. Under the arrangement, the Gallery had hosted receptions for international arms fairs.

Tracking UK arms exports and fostering transparency

CAAT uses the Freedom of Information Act to procure the details of government officials’ meetings with representatives of arms companies. In a further effort to bring a modicum of transparency to a sector cloaked in secrecy, CAAT recently launched an easy to use web applicationthat allows the media and public to scrutinise all arms export licenses granted by the UK government and hopes to extend this to the rest of the EU.

Exposing the UK government’s hypocrisy during the ‘Arab Spring’

In 2011, authoritarian regimes in Libya and Bahrain used UK weapons to suppress demonstrations by their own citizens. While the British Government spoke out against this, Prime Minister David Cameron simultaneously toured the Middle East with eight arms companies hoping to sell their weapons. CAAT highlighted the hypocrisy and succeeded in making arms exports a mainstream issue which politicians can now no longer ignore, with a Sunday Times poll showing 74% of the public to be opposed to government support of such arms sales.

International dimension

Campaign Against Arms Trade works with other organisations concerned with arms sales, particularly in Europe through the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT). Alongside the UK, both Germany and France regularly appear in the global top 5 arms exporters’ list. Arms sales are not limited to the largest European states, however. The Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Switzerland are significant exporters, and Sweden was ranked as having the highest arms export sales per capita in the world in 2011. In 2011-12 ENAAT researchanalysed and compared EU arms exports. CAAT and ENAAT also work with campaigners beyond Europe, including those in South Africa and the United States.

 
 

Interview with CAAT

Questions answered by Henry McLaughlin, Fundraising Co-ordinator, CAAT, in September 2012

Why do you feel ordinary people should be concerned about arms exports and the arms trade?

There are many reasons why ordinary people should be concerned about the arms trade:

Governments, such as the UK, support and subsidise the arms trade, with public money, through government contracts, financial support for research and development and export promotion. In the UK this amounts to £700 million a year. Money spent by government on the arms trade could be better used on health, education, and creating more sustainable jobs for example in the rapidly expanding renewables industry.

Exporting arms does not add to a nation’s national security. By selling arms to repressive and unstable regimes it just makes a country more insecure and less safe. The UK sold arms to Argentina before the Falklands War, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before the Gulf War, and Gaddafi’s Libya just a month before launching bombing raids there.

It is a destructive and dangerous industry, and arms sales fuel conflict worldwide. Western governments routinely arm repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa – these same regimes used western weapons against people demonstrating for democratic reforms.

The arms industry is one of the most secretive and corrupt in the world with recent legal cases brought against BAE Systems over arms deals resulting in heavy fines in the UK and USA.

What motivates and drives you and your colleagues to continue to challenge extremely powerful interests in the arms industry and within the UK government?

The arms industry is inherently dangerous and destructive, secretive and corrupting. Yet more than any other industry it depends for its sales and funding on governments. It affects people’s lives, directly and indirectly. It undermines democratic decision-making in both arms exporting and importing countries. It fuels wars and inflames tensions between countries. To maintain its privileged support from governments, arms companies perpetuate the myths that they are essential for jobs and the economy, and national security.

All of these issues and more, drive us to challenge the arms companies and the governments that support them.

What differentiates CAAT from several other NGOs working in this field, such as Amnesty International? 

Unlike these other organisations, CAAT is a single issue organisation. We aim to end the international arms trade. We focus especially on the role of the UK government and arms industry and the links between the two. Unlike many other organisations, we are concerned with the ‘legal’ arms trade, involving governments and industry, rather than the much smaller illegal arms trade, and we look at the issues of government support and promotion, including arms fairs.

Our approach to the proposed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) differentiates us from Amnesty and Oxfam in particular. We believe that the proposals for the ATT are flawed because they accept the legitimacy of the arms trade and attempt to regulate and control it and provide a ‘level playing field’ for arms companies, rather than end or even limit it. CAAT does support interim steps that can lead to an end to the trade – for example we were active in the campaign to ban landmines – but we do not believe that the ATT will achieve this.

What do you regard as CAAT’s biggest success over the years?

CAAT has helped to restrain government subsidy of arms deals through export credit. Before 2008, a large proportion of the insurance cover provided by the government was for arms deals; in some years more than half of export credit was for arms deals. Since 2008 it has been less than 2% in most years and has not exceeded 5%. In evidence to MPs in 2011, BAE Systems said that the government was less inclined to give export credit to arms companies for fear of legal challenges by NGOs.

CAAT has had a number of other successes, for example a successful campaign to close the government’s arms promotion unit, pushing Reed-Elsevier to disown the London arms fair, and challenging the decision of the Serious Fraud Office to end its investigation into BAE Systems. But in each of these cases the victory has later been at least partly reversed. This demonstrates the power the arms companies have within the British government, and the self-sustaining pro-military environment in which they operate. There is certainly plenty more work to do to change the culture in which the arms trade operates.

How successful was CAAT in linking the arms trade with the suppression of the ‘Arab Spring’ protests in Libya and Bahrain?

The UK government has a list of ‘priority markets’ it promotes arms sales to. Many of these countries were those involved in the Arab Spring protests including Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. When the uprisings spread to these countries, CAAT was able to draw on its research to quickly provide the media with examples of weapons the UK had sold to these countries. This shifted the agenda to show the government’s hypocrisy on arms sales – they talked of democracy and human rights, while simultaneously selling weapons to these same governments. This was seen especially during David Cameron’s ‘democracy tour’ of the Middle East at the peak of the uprisings, accompanied by arms company executives. Although the government initially rescinded 158 arms licenses in Feb-March 2011, arms sales have since resumed.

A poll at the time showed that the British public strongly disapproved of government promotion and sales of weapons to oppressive regimes. UK arms sales to oppressive regimes was headline news across the full spectrum of media.

Where are the emerging challenges you see for CAAT’s work in the next ten years?

The shrinking of military spending in Western countries is a good thing but it also means that arms companies will become even more reliant on markets in emerging states, including the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In some cases this will mean that more arms will be sold to repressive governments that can be used directly against their own populations, as well as in wars against neighbouring states.

We will continue to demand an end to all arms sales promotion and an end to arms exports to repressive regimes and countries involved in conflict. We will continue to demand greater transparency in arms export licensing regulations and in scrutiny of licensing decisions. More than this, we hope to change the environment which sustains the arms trade. We need to ensure that decisions on the UK’s own arms procurement, such as the purchase of new aircraft carriers, and foreign military interventions are challenged effectively. We will aim to highlight and constrain the revolving door of ministers and senior armed forces personnel entering into arms trade employment and sustaining the political influence of the arms companies.

Unfortunately the arms trade finds ways to develop new and destructive technologies, including distance warfare, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and surveillance technologies, which can be used for civilian and military purposes. Cyber technologies, which allow government to monitor and track populations are likely to grow cheaper and develop new markets. Some of these technologies will not even require export licenses so we will be pressing to make sure they are properly scrutinised.

What does the Right Livelihood Award mean to you?

We are honoured to receive the award and regard it as recognition for CAAT’s achievements to date and support for our aims in the future. CAAT is a small and independent campaigning organisation, funded mainly by dedicated individual supporters and organisations. We hope the award will draw greater attention to the damage caused by the international arms trade and will encourage the growth of anti-arms trade activism in other countries.

Publications

Publications by CAAT

For publications by CAAT, please see their website.

Articles about CAAT

For articles about CAAT, please see their website section “CAAT in the Media”