27 September 2012
Campaign Against Arms Trade awarded "Alternative Nobel Prize"
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has been awarded one of the four Right Livelihood Awards for 2012 for their innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade. CAAT is an independent campaigning organisation based in Finsbury Park, north London.
The award is made by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, based in Stockholm, and honours organisations and individuals "offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges to us today." It is often referred to as the "Alternative Nobel Prize". The award, which carries a cash prize of 50,000 Euros, will be formally presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament on 7 December 2012.
Three other Right Livelihood Awards went to Mr Hayrettin Karaca, for his lifetime of tireless advocacy and environmental activism in Turkey, Ms Sima Samar, for her long-standing dedication to human rights, especially women's rights, in Afghanistan, and Mr Gene Sharp of the USA, for developing, articulating and applying the principles of non-violent resistance around the world.
Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Academy, Ole von Uxekull, said:
Our jury was deeply impressed by CAAT's work. We often say that the recipients honour the award as much as the award honours the recipients. It is great to have CAAT as a new member in the Right Livelihood Award family.
Henry McLaughlin, Fundraising Coordinator at CAAT, said:
We are absolutely delighted to receive this recognition from the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. CAAT has campaigned effectively to expose and challenge the arms trade since 1974. This award honours the hard work of thousands of activists around the UK, and we hope the publicity it generates will help us get our argument across: that it is not OK for the government to promote weapons sales. We also hope the publicity the award creates will help our partners in other countries to get their message across.
For further information please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email press(at)caat·org·uk.
- Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of 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.
- The Right Livelihood Award Foundation honours and supports those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today. The Awards were founded in 1980. In many countries, they are often referred to as the "Alternative Nobel Prizes". With the 2012 Laureates there will be 149 Laureates from 62 countries. Presented annually in Stockholm at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award is usually shared by four recipients, but not all Laureates receive a cash award. Often an Honorary Award is given to a person or group whose work the Jury wishes to recognise but who is not primarily in need of monetary support. For the others, the prize money is 50,000 Euros. The prize money is for ongoing successful work.
In honouring CAAT as one of the four Award Laureates in 2012, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation has drawn attention to the achievements described below:
Challenging BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia arms deal
In September 1985, BAE Systems was a signatory to the UK's largest ever arms deal, the Al Yamnmah contract to provide military planes as well as servicing provisions to the government of Saudi Arabia. Rumours of corruption soon surfaced, and corruption has 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 10 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 treachery of the government and BAE's corrupt practices 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
From universities to local authorities, CAAT has consistently sought to highlight areas where public bodies 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 the University College London creating an ethical investment committee that reviews all investments.
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 application that 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 74% of the public opposed to government support of such arms sales in a Sunday Times poll.