As DSEI arms fair opens, new poll shows high level of public opposition

By agency reporter
September 15, 2015

On the same morning as thousands of arms dealers and military delegates descend on London for Defence & Security Equipment International 2015 (DSEI) (15 September), Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has published new polling research that reveals the level of public opposition to arms sales to dictatorships and human rights abusers.

The polling of over 2000 adults, undertaken by Opinium LLP, a London based online market research agency, found that 70 per cent of UK adults oppose the promotion of arms sakes to governments with poor human rights records, with only seven per cent in support. Similarly, 60 per cent oppose the promotion of arms sales to countries that are not democracies, with only eight per cent supporting them.

Government statistics show that at present, two thirds of all UK arms exports go the Middle East. The largest buyer is Saudi Arabia, to which the Coalition licensed over £3.9 billion worth of arms.

Forty-three per cent believe that the government should not be involved in organising arms fairs like DSEI, with only 19 per cent believing that they should. This increases to 64 per cent opposing the government's involvement with arms fairs to which human rights abusers are invited, with only nine per cent supporting it.

DSEI is organised by Clarion Events and supported by UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the 130 strong government department responsible for promoting arms exports.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The government is not a neutral observer in the arms trade, it is an active participant and is central to events like DSEI. The overwhelming majority of people across the UK oppose the government selling arms to human right abusers, and yet the vast majority of arms sales are to war zones, authoritarian regimes and dictatorships.”

DSEI attendees will include military delegations from a number of oppressive regimes, war zones and dictatorships; including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Pakistan. Israel is not on the official invitees list but it has a pavilion, which means it is a "high powered delegation."

The poll found that 62 per cent oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with only 16 per cent saying they are acceptable; 71% oppose arms sales to Pakistan, with only eight per cent saying they are acceptable and 62 per cent oppose arms sales to Israel, with only 18 per cent saying they are acceptable.

Andrew Smith concluded: “It is shameful that the government is welcoming arms dealers and despots with open arms at the same time as it is turning away refugees who are fleeing the kind of wars and insecurity that are fuelled by the arms trade.”

* CAAT https://www.caat.org.uk/

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