Between 2001 and 2006 Warwick had 46 projects funded by military organisations, arms companies and the Ministry of Defence, receiving over £5 million. This is a highly conservative figure.
What we’re arguing:
1. The major source of this funding is BAE systems. This is a company which sells weapons systems to tyrannical regimes, is implicated in corruption scandals worldwide, engages in uncompetitive business practices which divert hundreds of millions of pounds in military spending from front-line troops to their own pockets and has been forced to admit in court to paying private investigators to infiltrate and subvert peaceful campaigning groups. Do we want them funding our university?
2. Medical research is heavily scrutinized, largely transparent and regulated by ethics committees. In contrast the extent of research sponsored by military organisations only came out through intensive research by NGOs. Such research needs a similar committee so as to provide adequate scrutiny. Sponsorship by military organisations must be entirely transparent.
3. At careers events, military organisations stand alongside non-military companies. The Atomic Weapons Establishment, producing nuclear weapons that lawyers from Cherie Blair’s firm Matrix Chambers argue to be illegal under national law, sit next to computer firms. BAE systems, undeniably open to moral and legal criticism, sit next to insurance brokers. By allowing such military organisations to be at university events next to respectable companies, the careers service is conferring a legitimacy upon them which they do not deserve.
4. The careers service aims to inform students fully about possible careers yet huge aspects of the realities of the arms trade are entirely glossed over at careers events. These organisations, perhaps understandably, fail to promote many aspects of what they do. If you were BAE, hoping to recruit top graduates from Warwick, would you mention the crucial role you played in equipping Hawk jets used in the brutal repression of East Timor? How about the fact that one of the world’s most repressive regimes, Saudi Arabia, also happens to be one of your best customers? If we have to have arms companies here, we think students deserve to have the full facts about what a career with a company means.
5. We want to ensure that Warwick has no investments, directly or indirectly, in the arms trade. Where it doesn’t adversely affect the financial security of the institution, the university should take ethical criteria into account in its business practice. Ethical investment is compatible with financial security. For example, the FTSE4Good index is the top 100 UK companies that conform to certain ethical criteria. Since the FTSE4Good index was founded, it has outperformed the FTSE index.
As well as campaigning on these issues, we aim to support charities that help the victims of the arms trade. In the last 5 months we have raised almost £1000 for Medical Aid for Palestine We hope to raise awareness, stimulate debate and work towards delegitimising the arms trade. It is not an industry like any other. Unlike other trades, it deals in commodities explicitly designed to kill human beings.