Special Treatment: UK Government support for the arms trade and industry

We are pleased to draw to your attention a new report by Sam Perlo-Freeman, project manager for our program on the Global Arms Business and Corruption. The report, “Special Treatment: UK Government support for the arms trade and industry,” was authored by Perlo-Freeman while he was at SIPRI, who describes it thus: “The arms industry and market, in the UK as in most other significant western arms-producing countries, has a unique status. Although its production capabilities are privately owned, it has the national government as its primary customer. Unlike other industries, especially in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economies, it is the subject of active government industrial policy.”

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The customer is always right

Last week, a bombing raid in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, struck a funeral, killing 140 civilians. This is the latest in a series of outrages, well-documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others, whereby Saudi and allied forces have struck hospitals, schools, market-places and other civilian targets. Saudi-led bombing is believed to be responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Yemen’s bloody civil war.

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PMCs and Security Sector Reform: A Mismatch

Beyond these individual examples of failure, there may be an inherent mismatch in seeking to instill values of professionalism, civic service, and democratic control of security sectors through private (and perhaps mercenary) contractors. In countries where SSR is struggling to confront marketplaces that commodify violence, PMCs represent exactly that—the commoditization of military skills.

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