A hospital collapses under a bomb attack. A father clutches the body of his 3 year old daughter. This once shocking image has become more and more normalised in recent years, with conflict throughout the world (but particularly the Middle East) fuelling mass death, the refugee crisis and the violation of human rights.
Investing in the arms trade is considered a sound financial decision, because war is profitable, and the demand for weapons is unlikely to slow down. But to invest in the arms trade is to support conflict, because this is what brings a return to your investment.
There is a false conception that investing in the legal arms trade is somehow more responsible because it is monitored. The industry is corrupt and dangerous. Developing nations with less stable political conditions are the primary focus of arms trades (Grimmett Report) and the ‘war on terror’ has seen weapons being legally sold to 90% of countries identified as harbouring terrorists and governments which violate human rights. (Global Issues)
Charities known to have invested in the arms trade include Royal Life Boats, Cancer Research UK, Cooperative Insurance and Mencap as well as some NHS trusts, churches and universities. (The Guardian)
In 2013 it came out that the Church of England had investments of 10 million pounds in the weapons industry (The Independent) and Comic Relief invested £630,000 weapons firm BAE systems in 2009. (BBC) Since this time it has refused to comment how its money has been invested. Other well known charities which have invested in weaponry include Leukaemia Research Fund, Sue Ryder Care and National Trust for Scotland to name a few. (Third Sector)
Defending themselves, charities claim that in order to maximise profit and best carry out their mission, they need to protect financial reserves by investing in a wide range of profitable outlets. So what’s the big deal? Is it ok to maximise profit over ethics in order to make the donations it receives go further?
Firstly, we must understand that profit in the arms trade is so reliable because business is prioritised over human rights. (CAAT) According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the development and distribution of weapons does not make the world any safer at all. In fact, the opposite. They implore charities to invest their money in the clean energy industry which could guarentee a safer and fairer future world whilst providing a return. But war is so profitable, that the benefits would take longer to return if this change was made.
We have consider whether seeking profit is an acceptable excuse for investing in companies which threaten human rights and lives. This is perhaps most relevant in the context of the refugee crisis, where arms companies from the west have provided weapons to Assad’s government, Isis and a range of conflicting rebel groups all of which as fighting against one another
When we donate hard earned money to cancer research, do we want to be is perpetuating the refugee crisis that haunts the daily news? Is it a complicated issue, or is it black and white? What do you think? Please comment and let us know!