April 1 2008: A new government unit was formed to work on behalf of the arms industry, promising to promote responsible, ethical behaviour. While this might sound like an April Fool, unfortunately the formation of UK Trade & Investment's Defence & Security Organisation was not a joke. However, after a year of promoting weaponry to human rights abusers and conflict zones, its claims of promoting ethical behaviour appear particularly ludicrous.
On 30 March 2009, when UKTI's Board met to review UKTI DSO's performance, CAAT supporters were there to present their own assessment. The all-day protest aimed to highlight CAAT's concerns to Board members who determine the direction of the organisation and how its resources are allocated.
CAAT's alternative report - PDF (1M) bore a marked resemblance to UKTI DSO's own brochure, which it had produced to promote itself a few days previously. Most staff happily accepted a copy of CAAT's report as they arrived for work in the morning, although one member of DSO refused, saying "I've already seen it. I wrote half of it". Little did he know....
Later in the day it had obviously become clear that it was not an 'official' document - and lots more staff came outside to request their own copy! Clearly there had been some talk around the water-cooler. Overall, CAAT was very encouraged by the support received from UKTI staff troubled by their department's support for the arms industry.
All of CAAT's reports and postcards were distributed before the end of the day (despite the arrival of emergency supplies from CAAT HQ!), but luckily there were still enough to offer to Board members as they arrived at lunchtime. Let's hope it gave them food for thought as they assessed one year of UKTI DSO:
- nurturing close relationships with, and making sales to, repressive regimes
- brokering deals to conflict zones
- promoting weaponry to countries with urgent development needs
- Working closely with companies such as BAE systems, the subject of several international corruption investigations.
- receiving hugely disproportionate support for its destructive activities, at the expense of more useful industries.
The first cuckoo of spring?
CAAT supporters also successfully engaged hundreds of passers-by in the campaign. Alongside all of CAAT's friendly leafletters, a gun-toting cuckoo pacing the street outside UKTI certainly helped to get attention and to highlight the arms industry's unwelcome presence in UKTI using resources that could be invested in more productive activities.
Photographs © Roy St Pierre 2009.