Tuesday, 10 November 2009

victory for disarmUCL!

After three years hard campaigning by disarmUCL, UCL has caved in and will shortly sell its shares in the arms trader Cobham plc!

Jason Clarke, secretary to the Ethical Investment Review Committee, said that the committee members were impressed by the arguments laid out in our divestment requests, and confirmed that the committee agreed with us that UCL should dispose of its shares in Cobham because of ethical concerns. UCL's Investment committee raised no objection and the move was confirmed by UCL Council, which met in October.

Just a reminder of what our campaign has achieved: 3 years ago we discovered after a Freedom of Information request that UCL was the largest university investor in the arms trade (with over £1.5 million invested) but there was no way for students to find out about or influence UCL's investments. As a direct result of our student & alumni campaigning we now have transparency over investments, a Ethical Investment Review Committee with student representation, and most importantly, the remaining arms shares in Cobham will be sold!

The situation isn't perfect, as we called for equal student & alumni representation on the committee, whereas we've got one student out of 5 members, and the committee has no remit to consider positive investment or engagement. But this is still a massive achievement! (and don't let anyone tell you its down to the recession!)

Check out The London Student for the full story.

For information about the committee, see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/academic-services/eirc/.
Any 'member of the UCL community' can make a divestment request over any particular investment, and the list of investments are available by emailing alison.woodhams@ucl.ac.uk

well done everyone!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Congratulations ! Craig Griffiths elected UCLU ethics and environment officer

Craig Griffiths, a dedicated People and Planet and Disarm UCL campaigner, has been voted the new ethics and environment officer at UCLU for next academic year.

We hope that Craig will be able to make a real difference and closely monitor the implementation of UCL's ethical investment policy and the work of the Ethical Investment Review Committee.

Congratulations, Craig ! And good luck with the job !

Thursday, 19 February 2009

"They just don’t show no disrespect"

Mark Steele has mentioned our campaign in his latest comment piece on student activism in the Independent.

Click here to read the piece.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

UCL Ethical Investment Review Committee (EIRC) not set up yet !

As part of the National Action Day Against The Arms Trade over 40 UCL students and alumni have submitted a letter requesting divestment from arms trader Cobham plc.

We also used the opportunity to ask Jason Clarke, Deputy Director of Academic Services, more detailed questions about the EIRC. Turns out: a month and a half after the adoption of the Ethical Investment Policy the membership of the Ethical Investment Review Committee (EIRC) has not been finalized and no meeting date has yet been allocated.

We are very concerned about this delay in setting up the EIRC and the potential lack of transparency of EIRC decisions. We will monitor the situation over the next month very closely. Please see below for the full answers by Jason Clarke to our questions:

Q: When is the next meeting of the EIRC ?

A: I am currently exploring possible dates for the EIRC's first meeting. I am afraid that I am not able to confirm a date at this stage, but expect the Committee to be convened within the next month or so.

Q: Who are the members of the EIRC ?

A: I am also currently confirming the membership of the EIRC.

Q: Would it be possible for observers to attend the EIRC meeting ?

A: It is not standard practice for observers to attend meetings of UCL standing committees, but I will raise this point with the EIRC.

Q: Will a record of the EIRC meeting be made publicly available ?

A: We intend to issue at an appropriate stage after each meeting of the EIRC the decisions made. It should be noted that there are some matters on which EIRC is authorised to make an independent decision and others on which it makes recommendations to the Investments Committee. We would not expect to publicise recommendations made by the EIRC until they had been considered by the Investments Committee and, where necessary, by UCL Council.


Click this link for the terms of reference of the EIRC

The terms of reference state that:

(ii) The Chair of the Ethical Investment Review Committee may, on behalf of the Committee, invite UCL officers or other non-members to attend a particular meeting of the Committee. Attendance of officers or other non-members at meetings of the Ethical Investment Review Committee shall be by such invitation only.

Thus we assume that it would be possible for the EIRC to invite observers to their meeting.

Students celebrate success of anti-arms trade demonstrations

Students on campuses throughout the UK have demonstrated their opposition to the arms trade as part of a national Universities' Day of Action. Following on from the recent wave of demonstrations that swept 19 campuses in January, students, supported by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), have engaged in activities calling for an end to university involvement with the arms trade.

Click here to read more and who was involved.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Today students across the UK are taking action against their universities links with the arms trade.

Disarm UCL founded the National Action Day last year together with students from Manchester, Nottingham and Warwick University.

In solidarity with the other student campaigners we will today officially submit the letter demanding divestment from Cobham.

Queen Mary has announced that it will divest from Cobham. When will UCL finally do the same ?

Watch this space !

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Queen Mary announces to ditch shares in Cobham

Following the occupation of one of their building by students Queen Mary, University of London
announced today that they would divest its' shares in arms trader Cobham plc.

Here is a message by Professor Philip Ogden, Acting Principal of Queen Mary:

"I have responded to the students in occupation of one of our buildings. We (...) have told our financial advisers to dispose of a small holding we had in Cobham. (...)We have an ethical investment policy - ruling out tobacco for example and will now be tightening it further."

Disarm UCL congratulates students at Queen Mary on their great victory and hopes that UCL will now also divest from arms trader Cobham as soon as possible.

Queen Mary occupation blog

Check out their facebook group.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

FOR THE LAST TIME: Tell UCL to ditch the arms shares

Thanks to everyone who has supported the UCL campaign so far and has helped to bring about this amazing success.

All which is left to do now is to send a request to UCL's new ethical investment review committee and ask them to divest from arms trader Cobham plc.

We have drafted a letter below. So here's what you can do:

Either send the letter yourself to the Deputy Director of Academic Services: jason.clarke@ucl.ac.uk

or e-mail us at info@disarmucl.com with your name, the department you are studying and year of study and we add you to the list of signatories of the letter below. Check this blog for details about the review committee and its decision on Cobham :)

Mr Jason ClarkeDeputy Director of Academic ServicesUCL Gower StreetLondon WC1E 6BTjason.clarke@ucl.ac.uk

Dear Mr.Clarke,

we would like to refer a request to divest shares in arms company Cobham plc currently held in UCL's investment portfolio to the Ethical Investment Review Committee (EIRC).

The equipment produced by Cobham plc generally are subsystems and components, which are then sold to other arms companies such as BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin. These companies then market their weaponry as widely as possible around the world. Although Cobham plc does not often make the headlines, it is an integral part of the global arms trade and its equipment is an important element of many arms deals.

Cobham plc is a multi-national group of companies that is heavily involved in a number of major military aircraft-programmes. It produces avionics, aircraft and missile components and provides military training and communication equipment. For example, Cobham plc produces components of Hellfire Missiles. Such missiles have been used by the USA and are believed to have caused civilian deaths in Iraq. Cobham plc is also responsible for pioneering in-flight refueling which has facilitated the long-range bombing campaigns, that has characterized military operations since the Falklands war.

Cobham plc profits significantly from the sale of military components. It is the world's 46th largest arms producer by military revenue and as such a major player in the international arms trade, which is a major cause of human rights abuses.
UCL as a major university sets an important precedent for the whole sector. Its claim to be a 'global' university with a tradition of liberal ideals and social justice is undermined by its direct support of the 'global' arms trade.

As UCL’s ethical investment policy sets out, investments can be negatively screened if they i.) conflict or be inconsistent with the aims, objectives or activities of UCL, ii) might hamper the work of UCL 'either by alienating financial supporters or potential financial supporters; or by having a material impact on applications from potential students', or iii) are considered by UCL to be unethical, subject to paragraph four of the policy.

We believe that investment in Cobham plc should be brought to an end, as this action would satisfy the criteria in i), ii) and iii). UCL's world class research aims to "shape the future", craft "global citizenship" and improve the world for tomorrow. These are noble aims; the current investment in Cobham plc undermines them all.

We also believe that - in accordance with paragraph four - exclusion of investment in Cobham plc would not result in any significant financial detriment to UCL. The arms trade is a volatile sector, relying on heavy government subsidy and large, highly competitive yet infrequent orders, and does not therefore provide the stability that UCL seeks from its investments. We understand that the current levels of investment in the arms trade is less than 1% of UCL's total investments, and as such its exclusion is unlikely to result in significant financial loss to the university.

In fact UCL's current drive -"the campaign for UCL" - to receive donations from UCL alumni is adversely affected by the investment in Cobham plc, and will continue to be so. Many alumni have already stated - in letters to Provost Malcolm Grant - that they will not make any donations to UCL while investment in the Cobham plc continues. We, the signatories of this letter, will be unable to donate money to UCL now or in the future, if this investment remains.

UCL's liberal tradition - being the first university to admit women & candidates irrespective of religious confession - is a very positive aspect of the university, and a reason for so many students choosing to apply to UCL each year. This is suggested also by the inclusion of such facts in UCL's prospectuses. However we think investment in - and therefore financial support for – Cobham plc, harms this proud history, as the arms trade does not propagate equality and a just society, but rather has warfare as its raison d'être and death and suffering as its consequence. Prospective students who have decided to study at UCL partly on the basis of its history might decide against attending UCL as their tuition fees might support Cobham plc through UCL’s investment.

In conclusion, we are convinced that UCL’s investments in Cobham plc are unethical.

Finally, we believe that the reasons we have set out above are compatible with the charity commission's advice on ethical investment and reflect the views of a wide range of UCL students, staff and alumni.

Yours sincerely,