Will the Natural History Museum host Syria's arms supplier?

4 July 2012

Pressure is growing for the Natural History Museum to cancel a reception to mark the opening of Farnborough International. Representatives of repressive regimes and the world's top arms companies, including the principal arms supplier to the Syrian government, Rosoboronexport, are expected to attend the reception om 9 July.

Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-backed arms exporter, has said it will export weapons to Syria, which “may be an accomplice to crimes against humanity”, according to Human Rights Watch.

The director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Michael Dixon, has stated that for the Museum the event is simply a commercial transaction, not "an expression of support" for the arms industry. However, opposition is mounting against allowing such a valued public institution to be used to give a veneer of legitimacy to the international arms trade.

Over 1,600 hundred people have contacted the museum asking it to reconsider. The campaign has been boosted by support from a group of scientists, including Professor Steve Jones, who have condemned the museum's decision. A joint letter, to be released later this week, calls on the Museum to sever its links with the arms trade.

CAAT Campaigner Sarah Waldron said:

It's deeply disappointing that the Natural History Museum is allowing its good name and facilities to be used in this way. The Museum is supposed to be a celebration of life: it should not be opening its doors to human rights abusers and the companies that profit from supplying them.

For more information contact CAAT's Media Coordinator Kaye Stearman at media(at)caat.·org·uk or ring the CAAT office on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232.


1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems Around 75% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.

2. From 4pm on Monday 9 July, Campaign Against Arms Trade will be raising public awareness with a family-friendly demonstration outside the Museum.

3. Farnborough International is best known for its airshow, but the main business is its combined arms and aerospace trade show, which brings together the world's top arms companies and military buyers. Attendees at the previous Farnborough International in 2010 included military delegations from Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia - all countries with records of serious human rights abuses. Furthermore, Bahrain and Libya both turned weapons on their own people within seven months of the Farnborough event. Nine of the largest ten arms companies will be present at Farnborough International 2012, including BAE Systems and Finmeccanica.

4. The reception is scheduled to take place at the Natural History Museum from 7-9pm on Monday 9 July. Farnborough International's organisers describe the reception as “THE most important event during the Farnborough week, exclusively attended by key industry senior level figures, international delegations and exhibitors ... a must attend event and an unparalleled networking opportunity.”

5. This type of infiltration of the UK's public institutions by the arms trade is not unique. The National Gallery accepts £30,000 a year from Italian arms giant Finmeccania. In September 2011 it hosted a drinks reception for delegates to Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), amid protests in and outside the gallery. Recently pressure from the Bath Stop the War Coalition made the Bath and North East Somerset Council reconsider allowing DSEI orgenaisers Clarion Events to host a drones conference at Bath’s prestigious Assembly Rooms.


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