War Profiteers

WRI activists disrupting the welcome dinner at the ADEX arms fair
WRI activists disrupting the welcome dinner at the ADEX arms fair

Economics is one of the key causes of war - wherever there is a military conflict, someone is profiting from it. We call this "war profiteering".

WRI looks at war profiteering in a broad sense - we consider all companies and initiatives that benefit financially from military conflict as war profiteers, in some sense. This includes the arms trade and companies profiteering for the privatisation and outsourcing of the military, but also those extracting natural resources in conflict zones, financial institutions investing in arms companies, and many others.

WRI publishes a quarterly magazine called War Profiteers' News (in English and Spanish), and organises events to bring campaigners and researchers together to share strategies against war profiteering. In 2017 we will gather members and friends of the WRI network in London, for a seminar called “Stopping the War Business”. Campaigners will share experiences and strategies of countering the arms trade and other war profiteers. The seminar will take place at the same time  as the DSEI arms fair, where we will also take nonviolent direct action together. In 2015, we organised a similar event in Seoul, South Korea, which took place at the same time as the ADEX arms fair.

As long as Switzerland is tolerating the arms trade, financial investments into arms manufacturers and military research at universities, it will continue to bear some of the responsibility for the wars and conflicts of the world. 

Arms companies thrive on global instability and worldwide fearmongering since this enables them to sell more weapons and military goods and to make a profit. However, this logic can be reversed: it is the very existence and distribution of weapons and military goods that actually causes global insecurity. 

#RiotID

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The RiotID Team

What is Riot ID?

RiotID (http://riotid.com) is a civic media project helping people identify, monitor and record the use of riot control agents against civilians. The project is collaboration between researchers from Bournemouth University, Birmingham University and Omega Research Foundation, with Minute Works graphic design.

New Zealand is a place often associated with its nuclear-free position, and it rates highly on the global peace index. In spite of a relatively bucolic lifestyle downunder, New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, plays host to an annual weapons conference in November where about 550 delegates representing 165 companies converge for an annual weapons conference.Activists blockade the entrance to the weapons conference

Jordi Calvo Rufanges

War profiteering is explained with the military economy cycle which is based - as is most sectors of the economy - on neoliberal logic, the free market, privatization and reduction of regulations. It causes attitudes strictly related to personal enrichment and maximizing the economic benefit in the defense industry, forming the so-called neoliberal militarism. Moreover war profiteering goes beyond arms and defense sector. War needs lots of resources, not only weapons and armies, also logistics, transport, food, cleaning, translation services and private security. There are also wars for greed, which is not only power but also resources: oil, coltan, diamonds and whatever can be bought and sold in a market. Economic profits are part of war and wars are also made for profit.

Lexys Rendón

Between 2003 and 2013 - while the rest of the world experienced a wave of economic crises - Latin America showed good economic indicators. The continent benefited from the “boom of price in raw materials”; historically, the region's main export products are energy resources like oil, gas, coal and other minerals, and this continues today. In 2011, for example, 13 of the 20 biggest companies in Latin America belonged to the oil, gas, mining and iron and steel sectors. The money that entered the region managed to reduce poverty; in 2012, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) affirmed that the continent showed the lowest percentage of poverty (28.8% of total population) in the last 30 years.

However, the high economic incomes were not only destined to reduce levels of extreme poverty, they were also intended to modernise the armed forces of Latin American countries by a significant increase in arms purchases. In a study carried out by Peace Laboratory, based on figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) it was revealed that Latin America had increased it's weapons purchases by 150%, spending $13.624 million between 2000 to 2010. Military spending worldwide in 2012 reached $1.7 billion, or 2.5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In Latin America, defence spending was about 4% of its total GDP, above the world average.

Wook-sik Cheong

How can North East Asia best be defined geopolitically? Geographically one can say North East Asia includes North Korea, South Korea, Japan, all of territorial China and a part of the Russian territory. The de facto state of Taiwan occupies a very strategic and important place geopolitically. Although geographically not located in the region one cannot exclude the United States, a country that exercises the greatest influence and the most powerful state actor geopolitically in the region.

The Korean peninsula occupies a particularly important place geopolitically in North East Asia. Over the past centuries there has been a series of wars including the Imjin War (the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592) and the Manchu War of 1636, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 towards the latter period of the Choson Dynasty, the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905, and the colonization of the Korean peninsula by Japan followed by the division of the peninsula, the Korean War and subsequent armistice. Geopolitically, the Korean peninsula has increasingly become a highly sensitive region. If maritime powers such as Japan and the United States continue to expand, territorial powers such as China and Russia will seek to use the Korean peninsula as a buffer zone to check this expansion. On the other hand if territorial powers continue their expansion then Japan and the United States would be very wary of the threat of territorial powers using the peninsula to exert force against Japan.

Jasmin Nario-Galace

In 2014, according to the IHS Global Defence Trade Report, global defence trade increased to $64.4 billion, up from $56.8 billion the previous year. The report underscored that the US supplied one-third of all exports followed by the Russian Federation, France, UK and Germany. Seven of the top 10 defence importers were from Asia-Pacific: India, China, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia and Pakistan. The top 5 company exporters are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Airbus Group and UAC. The first three are US companies while the last two have headquarters in France and Russia, respectively.1

SIPRI reported that global military expenditures in 2014 reached US$1776 billion with China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia on the Top 15 of countries with the highest military expenditures.2

Andrew Feinstein

The global trade in arms is a business that counts its profits in billions and its costs in human lives. It is arguably the most damaging of all trades, accounting for around 40% of all corruption. It has massive influence on the way our governments operate, ensuring that war is a preferred option to diplomacy, and that we spend billions of dollars every year on weapons we often don’t need. It perpetuates, makes more deadly and sometimes even causes conflict and repression.

Global military expenditure is estimated to have totalled $1.77 trillion in 2014, that is more than $250 for every person on the planet. This was a fall of 0.4% on the previous year and is about 2.3% of global GDP.

Emily Masters, originally printed in 'Peace News'

After a four-month campaign, the international Stop the Shipment campaign succeeded in stopping a shipment of over a million canisters of tear gas to Bahrain on 8 January.

The government of Bahrain has been using tear gas to repress pro-democracy demonstrations since the Arab Spring spread to the Gulf state in February 2011.

A Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report in 2012 found that ‘Bahraini law enforcement officials routinely violate every UN principle’ in their ‘unusually relentless and indiscriminate campaign… weaponizing toxic chemical agents – so-called tear gas’.

After the Stopping the War Business seminar, WRI and World Without War activists took action to disrupt the welcome dinner for the ADEX arms fair in Seoul.

Inside the hotel that was hosting the dinner, activists held banners, chanted 'Stop Arms Trade', and flung money strewn with 'blood' on the ground. They were forceably removed by security, but caught the attention of over around 100 'VIPs', arms dealers and members of the military.

Outside, protesters held a rally, with speakers, songs, a die-in and a dance, in full view of the buses of arms dealers arriving for the dinner.

For two days activists from sixteen countries have gathered in Seoul for the Stopping the War Business seminar, co-hosted by World Without War and War Resisters' International.

We heard inspiring talks about ongoing resistance to war profiteering - from police militarisation and the companies that feed it in the USA, to civilian companies profiting from occupation in West Papua. We participated in workshops on different tactics we can use in the struggle to stop war profiteering, and in 'campaigns clinics', in which participants introduced campaigns they are involved in, and heard reflections and ideas from other activists.

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