As members of the Board of United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI) arrive for their Board Meeting today (30 March), they will be met by supporters of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) demanding that UKTI end its "disproportionate and unjustified" support for the arms industry.
UKTI's Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) was established as part of UKTI one year ago to provide support for arms companies in their export-related activities.
From the beginning, it has been a cuckoo in the UKTI nest, hoovering up resources that could be allocated to other areas, say critics.
DSO staff numbers at UKTI London headquarters equal those of other industry sectors combined. Yet arms-related exports are only 1.5 per cent of UK exports and provide less than 0.2 per cent of UK jobs.
UKTI's Board determines the direction of the organisation and the allocation of its resources.
CAAT campaigners will attempt to present board members with an alternative report, explaining why DSO activities are unethical and do not benefit UK taxpayers. On a lighter note, a giant cuckoo will pace the pavement outside UKTI headquarters.
Sarah Waldron of the Campaign Against Arms Trade says: “DSO is devouring resources which UKTI could used to promote peaceful and productive industries and employment. We want Board members to see that it should be kicked out without delay.”
The highly-regarded campaign emphasises that CAAT's protest action will be strictly non-violent and non-confrontational towards UKTI staff.
UKTI's Defence and Security Organisation provides support for arms companies in their export-related activities. This includes promoting weapons sales worldwide, including to countries in conflict and regimes with a documented record of human rights abuse.
Until March 2008, DSO's role was carried out by the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), housed at the Ministry of Defence. The disbanding of DESO, after a sustained campaign by CAAT and its transfer to UKTI was supposedly to bring all export functions under one ministry, enable greater transparency in arms sales and deliver better value for taxpayers.
In November 2008 , CAAT launched its 'UKTI: Armed and Dangerous' campaign with a demonstration outside UKTI's headquarters in London. The demonstration aimed to inform UKTI staff about the new DSO unit and asked them whether they were aware that UKTI was involved in arms dealing.
CAAT has since launched a petition and postcard campaign to enable members of the public to directly inform Andrew Cahn, UKTI Chief Executive, of their concerns.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. Its backers include peace, development and church groups.