An arms fair taking place in London this week will be run for the last time by its current owner Reed Elsevier, which is putting it up for sale. Campaigners say they believe it may be the beginning of the end for the military exhibition.
Opponents of the arms trade, including anti-poverty NGOs and church groups, have long argued that promoting military exports degrades development, increases conflict and contributes to human rights abuses.
Reed is expected to struggle to sell the fair in a year that has seen many businesses respond to public opinion by distancing themselves from the arms trade. The biennial fair, Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) will be held in the Excel Centre from Tuesday 11 - Friday 14 September 2007.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has pointed out that potential buyers will be further deterred by the Prime Minister's decision to close the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a Government unit that helps to organise DSEi.
CAAT is holding a peaceful demonstration against DSEi on Tuesday, which will be addressed by popular comedian and writer Mark Thomas - who has directly exposed sordid arms dealings with countries that violate human rights, like Indonesia.
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "The sale of DSEi and the closure of DESO are reactions to increasing public opposition to the arms trade. Participation in arms dealing is no longer an option for any business concerned about its reputation."
He continued: The Local Authority Pension Fund has been questioning arms companies on ethics, Axa and Hermes are withdrawing from companies involved in cluster munitions and BAE has been widely accused of damaging the reputation of British business."
Hill concluded: "Buying an arms fair in this climate would be like buying a dairy farm in the middle of the foot-and-mouth outbreak."