Scientists criticise arms industry sponsorship of Edinburgh science festival

Press release and open letter, 13 December 2013
 

Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) has today written to the organisers of Edinburgh International Science Festival urging them to cut their financial ties to major arms company, Selex ES.

The Festival – which is one of the UK’s leading organisers of science education activities for school children – lists as one of its major funding partners, Selex ES.

Selex ES manufactures a wide variety of military equipment including unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and targeting systems for combat aircraft and warships. Its annual sales total €3.5 billion. It is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica – one of the world’s largest arms companies. In 2009, one of the Selex family of companies secured a deal with the authoritarian regime of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya for border security equipment worth €300 million. Selex also has a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia, another authoritarian country.

Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of SGR, said “Arms companies should not have a role in science education events for children. We should be encouraging children to see science and technology as a means to help tackle pressing social and environmental problems, not finding new ways to wage war.”

Contact: Stuart Parkinson: 07 941 953 640
 

Notes

1. SGR is an independent membership organisation of nearly 1,000 natural and social scientists, engineers, IT professionals and architects. It was formed in 1992. SGR’s work is focused on several issues, including security and disarmament, climate change, sustainable energy, and who controls science and technology? For more information, see http://www.sgr.org.uk/

2. The full text of the letter can be read at: http://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/scientists-criticise-arms-industry-sponsorship-edinburgh-science-festival#letter

3. Edinburgh International Science Festival’s financial supporters are listed at: http://www.sciencefestival.co.uk/support-us  Other information about the Festival can be found on this site.

4. Further key information about Selex ES can be found at:

5. Finmeccanica officials are under investigation for corruption in both India and Italy – see:

 


To:
Simon Gage, Director,
Edinburgh International Science Festival, Edinburgh.
 

Dear Mr Gage

Open letter on Selex ES sponsorship of Edinburgh International Science Festival

We are writing on behalf of Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), a UK organisation with nearly 1,000 members which promotes science, design and technology that contributes to peace, social justice and environmental sustainability.

We wish to inform you that we object to Selex ES being a major funding partner of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

The Festival is a hugely popular event which reaches over a quarter of all schoolchildren in Scotland. According to your website, the Festival is "an educational charity that encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to discover the wonder of the world around them". SGR wholly supports this mission. In light of this, it is very disturbing to learn of the involvement in the Festival of Selex ES.

Selex ES manufactures a wide variety of military equipment including unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and targeting systems for combat aircraft and warships. Its annual sales total €3.5 billion.1 It is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica – the eighth largest arms company in the world.2 In 2009, one of the Selex family of companies secured a deal with the authoritarian regime of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya for border security equipment worth €300 million.3 Selex also has a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia, another authoritarian country.4

It is factors such as these which lead us to conclude that Selex ES plays a key role in supporting militaristic activities of both Western governments and governments with major human rights problems. We believe it is entirely inappropriate for a company with such a background to sponsor a science festival aimed at children.

Latest figures reveal that global military spending currently exceeds $1.7 trillion a year.5 This is an enormous amount of money, especially considering that urgent global problems such as poverty and environmental damage do not receive anything like the resources they need to tackle them. The UN Secretary-General recently remarked that “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”.6 We very much agree with this sentiment. We should be encouraging children to see science and technology as a means to help tackle pressing social and environmental problems, not finding new ways to wage war.

We understand that any venture on the scale of Edinburgh International Science Festival requires sponsorship. We would urge you however to consider the serious ethical implications of having an arms manufacturer as a major funder and to reconsider this decision.
 

Sincerely

Dr Stuart Parkinson
Executive Director

Dr Philip Webber
Chair

 

Notes

1. Selex ES (2013). http://www.selex-es.com/media/press-kit/2013-corporate-brochure

2. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (2013). http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2013/04

3. Defense Industry Daily (2009). http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/Libya-Buys-Border-Control-System-from-SELEX-05846/

4. Selex ES (2013) – as note 1.

5. SIPRI (2013). http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2013/03

6. UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (2012).
http://www.un.org/disarmament/update/20120830/