Friday, September 09, 2005

More on Elsevier and the Arms Trade

The current issue of the British medical journal The Lancet has an editorial on the issue of Reed Elsevier's involvement in the international arms trade and the DSEi (Defence Systems and Equipment international) trade show. Note that Elsevier is The Lancet's current publisher.

DSEi takes place in association with the UK's Ministry of Defence. Over 1000 companies will exhibit their weapons and related systems at the arms fair in London's Docklands. In their promotional literature, our owners emphasise the “selling process” at DSEi, which is cited as a “key event for the total supply chain” of arms. At the last DSEi, held in 2003, this “selling process” included technologies such as cluster bombs, which are widely deplored by UN agencies and human rights organisations.

It would be grossly naive for The Lancet to argue that nations do not need responsible and well-managed defence industries as a means to protect themselves from security threats. Without security, health systems would be neither stable nor sustainable. But it would be equally naive to argue that the legality of a weapon somehow absolves a country, manufacturer, or even an exhibitions company from a judgment about the weapon's use, sale, or promotion....

Reed Elsevier's response is that the sale of military equipment is legal, government supported, and tightly regulated. However, The Lancet's collaborations in child survival and health-systems strengthening, for example, risk being tainted by Reed Elsevier's promotion of the “selling process” of arms. The arms industry draws vital investment away from the health budgets of low-income nations. In 2004, 59% of arms sales were to developing countries, at a total cost to their economies of US$22 billion....

Reed Elsevier has provided enormous material support to The Lancet during the past decade. It has never wavered in backing the journal's editorial independence, as proven by the publication of this leader comment. We cannot believe that Reed Elsevier wishes to jeopardise that commitment by its presence in a business that so self-evidently damages its reputation as a health-science publisher.

The Lancet's editors and the journal's International Advisory Board were unaware of Reed Elsevier's involvement with DSEi until a few weeks ago. We are deeply troubled by this connection to the arms trade. On behalf of our readers and contributors, we respectfully ask Reed Elsevier to divest itself of all business interests that threaten human, and especially civilian, health and well-being.

House of Butter notes that a group of Australian law librarians has sent a letter to Reed Elsevier in London urging that the company cease its involvement in organizing arms fairs. (Lengthy excerpt follows.)


HOB thanks and congratulates Gayle Davies in the library at the DPP in NSW (Australia) for bringing this to our attention and actively challenging Reed Elsevier the parent company of Lexis Nexis to respond.

HOB learns that Reed Elsevier, in addition to its ownership of Lexis-Nexis, has amongst its other companies two subsidiary events companies, Reed Exhibitions and Spearhead Exhibitions, which organize arms fairs around the world, including the DSEi Arms Fair, which is to be held in London this month.

In response to this Davies has drafted a letter to the Chairman of Reed Elsevier (see below)
with a copy to the Chief Executive of Lexis-Nexis Australia, that she circulating to lawyers and librarian colleagues in NSW who use Lexis-Nexis publications.

At the moment she only has around twenty signatures, and she is hoping to get enough to fax it to arrive in London by September 11th .

She has also forwarded the letter to a number of other organisations such as the World Criminal Justice Library Network, and the International Federation of Library Associations for further support.

If you believe that your supplier of legal materials, Lexis Nexis and other subsidiary Reed Elsevier organisations should not have companies within the same network that concern themselves with the world of arms manufacturing and distribution please support Ms Davies ( and all other sane thinkers) by copying and pasting this petition, signing it and emailing back to her at

It goes without saying that HOB fully endorses the following letter and we hope that you will also add your voice and distribute this letter to your colleagues.

Following are some links from activist websites and blogs about the DSEI arms fair in London this month.

We note that London's mayor Ken Livingston has stated his opposition to the event.

Red Pepper
Disarm DSEi
The Campaign Against The Arms Trade

The letter / petition follows

Mr Jan Hommen,
Reed Elsevier PLC,
1-3 Strand,
London WC2N 5JR
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7166 5799

cc: Mr Max Piper,
Chief Executive Officer,
Lexis-Nexis Australia
Tower 2, 475-495 Victoria Avenue
Chatswood, NSW 2067, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9422 2700
Fax: +61 2 9422 2701

Dear Mr Hommen,

We are a group of lawyers and law librarians, who are customers of your subsidiary company, Lexis-Nexis. Many of us have used Lexis-Nexis publications since we were at university. We rely on them now for our daily work. Lexis-Nexis publications are used in our Courts, and are highly visible on Benches and Bar Tables.

We are also aware of Elsevier's considerable reputation in publishing in medicine and other sciences.

We are therefore extremely distressed to learn that another of Reed Elsevier's subsidiaries, Spearhead Exhibitions, is in the business of organizing arms fairs, and is staging the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition in London this month.

While we are not suggesting that there is anything illegal in this association, we believe it to be totally incompatible with Reed Elsevier's core business of publishing for the legal and medical professions. The very phrase "arms fair" is abhorrent: first, because there is nothing "fair" about the arms trade, and second, because the word "fair" implies that it will be a festive occasion - an insult to the children who are killed and maimed every day by land-mines deliberately designed to look like toys and butterflies

As we have seen in Sarajevo, East Timor, and Iraq, libraries are often the targets, and always among the victims, in any armed conflict situation.

By promoting arms, Reed Elsevier via Spearhead Exhibitions is supporting a superfluous industry : if the arms industry ceased production today, there would still be enough weapons of all kinds available to wipe out the entire human race several times over. Yet the events of September 11, 2001, and London on July 7th 2005, show that the United States, and Britain, despite being the two largest arms manufacturers and exporters in the world, were completely unprepared for terrorist attacks which used inexpensive small-scale technologies to devastating effect.

Government outlays for military purposes play a large role in driving fiscal deficits and in raising global interest rates, leading to increased debt, capital shortage, and cut-backs to social and civil infrastructure, all ofwhich result in the exacerbation of social and ethnic tensions, violent crime, fundamentalism, instability and conflict. The current situation in New Orleans provides a stark illustration of what happens to civil society when funding is diverted from social infrastructure to the arms industry, using the pretext of invented wars (on drugs, on terror, on Iraq........) as the justification.

The secrecy and lack of transparency of inter-state arms transfers carry the potential for corruption (see for example this BBC item on the Scott Report on British arms deals with Iraq in the 1980s
and large numbers of legally traded weapons ending up on the black market, where they are used in terrorist and criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and people trafficking.

"Arms fairs" glamorize weaponry and other aspects of military technology, creating a governmental mentality which gives them priority over socially useful institutions such as courts, legal services, and libraries. Even in a developed country like Australia, many government law libraries are being closed down because Federal and State governments cannot or will not fund them adequately - resulting in substantial loss of business for Lexis-Nexis and other publishers. Furthermore, such an association must surely damage Lexis-Nexis' reputation as an impartial conduit for legal information and knowledge. It could lose its respected legal writers and authorities, as well as shareholders, who may not care to be associated with a conglomerate which also peddles death and destruction.

We urge you to uphold in practice the ethical standards to which you have subscribed in writing. In order for your support of the UN Global Compact to have any credibility at all, your company must stop organising arms fairs such as DSEi and Helitech Latin America.

We therefore urge you to stop Reed Elsevier's involvement in all arms fairs.

Yours sincerely,

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