Film & Panel discussion – The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade

Shadow World is directed by Johan Grimonprez and is in part based on Corruption Watch UK founder Andrew Feinstein’s globally acclaimed book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade.  Andrew, who will be chairing our Q & A, is a former ANC MP in South Africa, who resigned in protest at his own government’s refusal to allow an unfettered investigation into a massive, corrupt arms deal with BAE. 

The film reveals how the international trade in weapons – with the complicity of governments and intelligence agencies, investigative and prosecutorial bodies, weapons manufacturers, dealers and agents – fosters corruption, determines economic and foreign policies, undermines democracy and creates widespread suffering. 

The film suggests peaceful alternatives through the experience of an activist and war correspondent, as well as through the voice of the author Eduardo Galeano who contributed selections from his stories for the film.

The UK arms trade is amongst the most corrupt and deadly in the world. BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, amongst others, have been involved in corrupt arms deals across the world for decades. The UK has sold Saudi Arabia almost £5 billion of weaponry since the Saudi-led coalition first invaded Yemen in a conflict that has cost over 15,000 civilian lives, and rendered millions homeless and vulnerable to starvation and disease. According to UK law, multilateral and international agreements, such arms sales should not be happening. But they are, and at an ever increasing rate.

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has committed to suspending arms sales to non-democratic countries and those engaged in conflict. The party has also committed to a comprehensive review of British arms sales and the mechanisms for concluding weapons contracts. In addition, the party has indicated support for some diversification from the defence sector.

Trade Treaties and their Global Impact: who makes these rules, and who benefits?

We have heard a great deal about trade agreements ever since the UK Brexit Referendum, but the actual contents of these suggested treaties have remained opaque. What exactly are World Trade Organisation rules? How have they operated internationally in the past? Whose interests do they serve? In their absence, how do bilateral or group arrangements function, and what determines the power relationship between the participants? These issues are crucial to national and international prosperity, and to the political and economic balance of our increasingly globalised world.  John Hilary has worked on international trade issues across a range of NGOs, including for 12 years at the international campaigning organisation War on Want, where he was Executive Director. He has lectured and written widely about trade matters, and his introductory guide to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been translated into 12 European languages. His book, The Poverty of Capitalism, Economic Meltdown and the Struggle for What Comes Next was published by Pluto Press in 2013, and he co-edited the Routledge publication Free Trade and Transnational Labour the following year. He is Honorary Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at Nottingham University, and has recently served as Head of Trade Policy for the Labour Party. He will discuss the background and content of current trading deals in the context of Brexit and beyond, and the implications they hold for the future.   Guardian Articles.   Blog on TTIP.

13th May 2019

Reforming the Drug Laws to Improve Health

The destructive consequences of drug abuse and addiction are a matter of grave concern. They cause great individual suffering and societal damage, and punitive regulations and legislation have been imposed in an effort to control the problem. Professor Nutt will argue that although the drug laws are designed to reduce drugs use and harms, they do neither – if anything, prohibition based approaches increase harms. Moreover they have had a nearly fatal impact in stopping research into many important brain treatments. His talk will cover these topics and reveal more rational and evidence based approaches to the problem of the use of alcohol and other drugs. David Nutt is currently the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology in the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London. He is also Chair of DrugScience (formally the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD). He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a member of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. David broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television. He has edited the Journal of Psychopharmacology for over two decades and has published over 500 original research papers, a similar number of reviews and book chapters, eight government reports on drugs, and 32 books, including Drugs Without the Hot Air (UIT press) which won the Transmission Prize for Communicating Science in 2014.

29th April 2019


Security, Conflict and Exploitation in Congo

The  Democratic Republic of Congo  (DRC) is one of the largest countries in Africa and has experienced intense human and resource exploitation and violence throughout its history. This talk explores the links between violence, resources and political power, and the effects that these have had on development and migration. The recent presidential elections have seen a relatively peaceful handover of power, and the emergence of a new form of political opposition. These have taken place alongside a marked continuation in the destitution suffered by majority of the population, and a critical lack of service provision, which is evident in the responses made to the on-going Ebola outbreak  in the east of the country. 

 Zoe Marriage is a Reader in Development Studies at SOAS  and a member of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice.  She has researched extensively in countries affected by conflict in Africa and has focused on the relationship between security and development in the DRC publishing on demobilisation and the imposition and pursuit of security  (Formal Peace and Informal War, Routledge 2013).  She will talk about the current situation in the DRC and the prospects for development and security.

Marriage, Zoe (2018) ‘The Elephant in the Room: Off-shore companies, liberalisation and extension of presidential power in DR Congo.  Third World Quarterly, 39 (5). pp. 889-905.

You can follow Zoe on twitter here:

15th April 2019


Saudi Arabia & the West: the Future of a Toxic Relationship

The war in Yemen and the Khashoggi murder have highlighted the ruthless and brutal nature of the Saudi regime and the extent to which it has been supported over many years by the west. The need for petrodollars and access to the sovereign wealth of Saudi Arabia to ease western current account  deficits  has led to western connivance with the Saudi regime in its regional objectives in the Middle East generally and specifically in the Yemen, where western arms and military advisors are used by the Saudi regime to fight a war that is resulting in a humanitarian disaster.

David Wearing is a teaching fellow in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London,  and has studied relations between the West  and Saudi Arabia over many years.  He has provided expert comment and analysis on numerous occasions for Sky News and BBC tv and radio, as well as writing regularly for outlets such as the Guardian, the Independent, CNN, New Humanist, the New Statesman, London Review of Books, openDemocracy and Le Monde Diplomatique. In September 2017 he published ‘AngloArabia: Why Gulf Wealth Matters  to Britain’. He will look at the nature of the Saudi regime and its foreign policy under the Crown Prince and how far it will be possible for western policymakers to change, recalibrate and disentangle existing relationships which are so dependent on the flow of Saudi money to the west.   See all Guardian articles.  See David on Twitter.

1st April 2019

New Film & Panel Discussion – “WAR SCHOOL” – the Battle for the Hearts & Minds of Britain’s Children

Set against the backdrop of Remembrance Day, the controversial and challenging documentary War School reveals how, faced with unprecedented opposition to its wars, the British government is using a series of new and targeted strategies to promote support for the military.  Armed Forces Day, Uniform to Work Day, Camo Day, National Heroes Day – in the streets, on television, on the web, at sports events, in schools, advertising and fashion – the military presence in civilian life is on the march. The public and ever younger children are being groomed to collude in the increasing militarisation of UK society.  

Interweaving the powerful and moving testimonies of veterans of Britain’s unbroken century of wars with expert commentary, archive and a redolent score, War School’s mosaic of sound and imagery evokes the story of the child soldier who becomes a peace campaigner, challenging the myth of Britain’s benign role in world affairs and asking if perpetual war is really what we want for future generations? 

The film includes moving testimony by several members of Veterans for Peace UK, which is a voluntary ex-services organisation of men and women, who together have served in every war the UK has fought since World War 2.   The organisation states that “War is not the solution to the problems we face in the 21st century.”  Several members of VFP, who have appeared in the film, will join a panel with Mic Dixon after the film.

Mic Dixon has worked in the UK Film and Television Industry since 1979. Credits include – The Wave that Shook the World (C4 Bafta Nominated}; Syria Undercover (PBS Frontline – Emmy Winner); Pakistan After the Floods (C4 Unreported World – One World Media Award Winner); The Other War (C4 the truth behind Operation Desert Storm – United Nations Media Peace Prize); Gandolfi – Family Business (Sheffield International Doc. Festival featured film and BFI National Selection). 

Mic edited TV commercials until 1984. After a trip to the Soviet Union with a cultural delegation of independent filmmakers he then began working with POW Productions Ltd. and has focussed on films that challenge the mainstream media. As Producer/Director his feature documentaries include – A Tin Can with a Silencer – with John Pilger and Paul Foot – a film about the Media Workers Against the (Iraq) War; This is Our Music – from Punk to Ska in 3 days and A Minority Pastime – the reality behind the myths of Fox-Hunting, featuring Patrick Stewart. 

Mic is now a fulltime filmmaker and activist. Current projects include – Take Back the Duchy a film for Republic – the campaign for an alternative to the British Monarchy and The Road to Recovery a journey into, and out of, PTSD. 

18th March 2019

Plastics & Us: A Relationship Gone Bad?

Plastic is an extraordinarily versatile material. It is cheap, durable, low-weight and versatile, and our building and construction industry, industrial and agricultural machinery, transportation, electrical goods, textiles, medical supplies and packaging are all dependent on its various forms. The accumulative amount produced since mass production began in the 1950s – 8.3 billion tonnes – is roughly equivalent to the entire weight of the human beings living on the planet, and almost half the items made from it are for single use. This results in huge amounts of detritus, which is polluting our landmasses and contaminating our oceans, affecting over 700 marine species. More recently, the presence of minute ‘microplastics’, less than 5 mm across and often invisible to the human eye, has been causing grave concern. These are ubiquitous in habitats as diverse as the deep Indian Ocean floor to Arctic sea ice. They can cause harm to marine invertebrates if ingested, and potentially carry a cocktail of chemicals. Recently, their presence in foods destined for human consumption has prompted concern regarding possible human health effects, which are still unknown. Tonight’s speaker Stephanie Wright is an environmental health scientist, researching this particular aspect of the problem in the Analytical, Environmental and Forensic Sciences Department of King’s College London. She will discuss the whole issue with us, including what can be done to limit the damage and re-align our relationship with plastic through smarter use and better waste disposal of this essential material. 

Dr Stephanie Wright – 18.45 on Monday 25th February

The Impact of Foreign Interventions in Africa

Western involvement in Africa extends from massive corporate investment in mineral extraction and technology, to direct government aid and a network of programmes  run by NGOs. In addition China is now also heavily involved in investment in Africa. But the impact of these interventions may produce either different outcomes from those intended or be detrimental to the economic, social and political development of the countries concerned.

Alastair Fraser lectures at SOAS in the Department of Politics and International Studies and he is on the Editorial Working Group of the Review of African Political Economy. His research includes: the politics of ‘call-in’ radio and television; the privatisation of the copper mining industry, including relations between workers, the state and Western and Chinese investors; the strategies African states deploy to negotiate with foreign aid donors; the ideological effects on trade unions and NGOs of ties to the international development industry; and the relationships between technocracy, democratisation and populist modes of political mobilisation. He will look at how foreign aid donors, international NGOs and multinational companies promote their preferred economic and social agendas in Africa, and how African elites and citizens respond to these influences. See full academic biography

4th February 2019

The Threat of Surveillance in an age of Technology

In recent years, the British state has spied on law-abiding environmental activists, democratically elected politicians, victims of torture and police brutality, and hundreds of journalists. With the development of new and emerging technologies, this often lawless use of sophisticated surveillance is becoming increasingly alarming. In 2016 a law called the Investigatory Powers Act was passed in the UK, enabling the British state indiscriminately to hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population, making it the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. The prospect of a free trade agreement in mass surveillance between the UK and the US has exacerbated the situation, with the US President committed to monitoring all mosques, investigating Black Lives Matter activists, and deporting two to three million people. Silkie Carlo will discuss this critical issue with us. She is the Director of Big Brother Watch, a non-party, non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting privacy and civil liberties in the UK. She is a passionate campaigner for the protection of human rights and freedom, and after working for Edward Snowden’s official defence fund, became the Senior Advocacy Officer  at Liberty, where she led a programme on Technology and Human Rights, and launched a legal challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act.   She co-wrote the handbook “Information Security for Journalists” which was commissioned by the Centre for Investigative Journalism.  See also article on Apple´s monopoly on free speech.

21st January 2019


The Challenge of National Populism

Across the west, there is a rising tide of people who feel excluded, alienated from mainstream politics, and increasingly hostile  towards minorities,immigrants and neo-liberal economics. Elections in America and across Europe have shown that many of these people have turned to national populist movements in a revolt against liberal democracy and the rationalism of the enlightenment. Their ideas can be seen as anti democratic and in some cases fascist, but support for this right wing populism has grown inexorably over the last five years. How should we engage with and respond to a set of ideas and values which which appear so alien to mainstream political thinking in the west in the post war decades?

Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at Rutherford College, University of Kent and a Senior Visiting Fellow at Chatham House.  He is the leading authority on nationalist and far right politics and has written extensively on this topic.  In 2015 he won the Paddy Power Political book of the year for ‘Revolt on the Right’. His most recent book ‘National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy’is due to be published in October and signed copies will be available to purchase on the evening of his talk.  He will look at the background  and ideas of national populism, the challenge that it presents to western democratic systems and will suggest ways in which we should respond to that challenge.

Monday 3rd December 2018