UK 'fuelling war instead of peace'
The UK is fuelling war instead of peace with its arms exports, is complicit in the Yemen war, and needs to change its approach to be a credible peacemaker, says Christian Aid
The international development charity has called on the Government to stops selling arms to Saudi Arabia, as well as other states which are violating international law. It says the Government is on track to be one of the world's biggest arms dealers, which 'casts a shadow' on its attempts to place itself as a values-based international actor committed to tackling global conflict. There's wider backing for this stance, adds the charity, after a ComRes poll found 61 per cent of the British public thinks the Government should stop selling military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
The warnings and conclusions are part of a new report Resourcing war and peace: time to address the UK Government’s double standards, and coincide with Christian Aid’s Christmas peacemakers appeal.
Over the last five years, the UK has sold over two-thirds of its major arms exports to Gulf Arab States, with Saudi Arabia alone accounting for 49 per cent of all such exports. In contrast, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark (future exports only) and Finland have all suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and Canada may follow suit soon. The US Senate has also provoked debate on ongoing support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Karol Balfe, who leads on Christian Aid’s global peacebuilding programme, said, 'No other arms exporter comes close to this dependence on the Gulf market.
'In turn, this means that the Royal Saudi Air Force is hugely dependent on British-made aircraft and missiles – maintained and supported in-country by British military and civilian technicians for its own operations.
'The UK Government risks putting its own perceived national security and domestic interests ahead of human security and protection of those living in conflict. In our work, we see that local actors make a huge difference in turning the tide of violence.
'We are heartened to see that the British public is with us on this. With 61 per cent believing these arms sales to Saudi Arabia should stop, we are calling out the UK Government’s immoral policy of arms exports to repressive regimes.'
The charity praised the UK’s role in aid and development, committing to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) for aid and 50 per cent of its aid budget to conflict affected states. However, this was undermined by its arms exports.
Rowan Williams, Christian Aid’s chair and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said the charity was calling on the Government to 'become a leader in conflict resolution and peacebuilding by way of society-building.'
He said, 'We can’t pretend that British involvement in war is a thing of the past. We may not have experienced the direct effects of war in this country for a lifetime, and we can be thankful for that; but our overseas policies are still helping to support violence and injustice elsewhere in the world, among those least able to defend themselves.
'The scale of the humanitarian catastrophe that has overtaken Yemen is one of the most dramatic instances. 14 million people are on the brink of famine, as a result of a war that continues to claim the lives of countless civilians. And this is a war in which the government of the UK is directly complicit: arms sales from this country to Saudi Arabia have increased by two thirds since 2016 and now account for nearly half of Britain’s major arms exports.
'Sustainable development needs political security and the rule of law; it means people having a safe place to call home, security of food supplies and guaranteed access to medical and educational services. Without these things, any talk of security is going to be empty and meaningless – at best a sticking-plaster, at worst something that contributes to worsening our shared insecurity.
'Is the UK prepared to take a new lead in peacemaking by promoting and championing human rights and international law in settings of extreme and indiscriminate violence?
'This Christmas, we are challenging our country and our government to take a long and critical look at its record and to find the courage to become a leader in conflict resolution and peacebuilding by way of society-building.
'We know that the vast majority of this country’s citizens want to see an end to arms sales to countries engaged in wholesale slaughter; and a similar majority wants to see our development programmes guided by the needs of people on the ground rather than security priorities alone. We are urging our government to listen to these voices and to act.'