September 2017 is a key month for those seeking to end the arms trade. There are just so many, and such varied, opportunities to highlight the dire consequences of the trade in death and destruction and move towards ending it.
The arms fair
Most obviously, the biennial DSEI arms fair is at London Dockland’s ExCel Centre from 12 to 15 September. The activities start the previous week, aimed at preventing the set up, continuing throughout the week itself. Numerous innovative protests and events are planned, including art shows and theatre performances, as well as an academic conference.
If the tanks and missiles do make it into Excel, government and military delegations from the across the globe will mingle with arms company bosses and sales personnel.
While the official UK government invitation list is unlikely to be published until DSEI starts, in 2015, 61 official delegations were invited. These included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. Representatives from other countries are invited by the event organisers. The exhibitors, too, are international and include Israeli arms companies that have been complicit in the occupation of Gaza.
The jobs debate
UK government Ministers will be giving speeches at DSEI. They will no doubt emphasise post-Brexit opportunities afforded by more arms sales. To counter criticism, they will mention the high tech jobs the industry sustains. They probably won’t mention that this is down to the unique support and subsidy that military industry enjoys.
Those who work in the arms industry are understandably protective of their jobs. Recognising this, a motion, number 17, originally from Newcastle Trades Council, has been put forward by the National Trades Councils Conference for debate at the Trades Union Congress. This takes place in Brighton from 10 to 13 September. Inspired by last November’s Conference marking 40 years since the Lucas Plan, the motion calls on the Labour Party to set up a shadow Defence Diversification Agency. It wants arms conversion plans ready when Labour forms a Government.
The UN meeting
At the Third Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, being held in Geneva from 11 to 15 September, Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly be the elephant in the room. None of the government representatives present will want to point fingers at other governments, such as that in the UK, complicit in the deaths and destruction in Yemen by allowing the supply of arms.
Conversely, Saudi Arabia, as well as the coincidence of the DSEI arms fair, will almost certainly feature in the side meetings organised by non-governmental organisations.
The Labour Conference
At the time of writing, we are hoping that Saudi Arabia will be discussed at the Labour Party Conference, again in Brighton, from 24 to 27 September. CAAT has been working with a group of Labour activists to try to get a contemporary motion on “Ending UK support for Saudi Arabia” onto the agenda. If you’re in the Labour Party, depending on your constituency, it may not be too late to help with this.
The legal action
September is also a busy time for CAAT staff and lawyers working on the legal challenge to the UK government’s continued licensing of exports to Saudi Arabia. Key documents need to be filed with the courts. We expect to be able to tell you more about this later in the month, but, in the meantime, here is an excellent analysis from Saferworld of the High Court judgment.