Oxford urged to say farewell to arms


Alex Moss

An article in The Lancet journal has criticised the University’s continued investment in the arms industry.

An article in last week’s edition of the international journal, written by members of Oxford Anti-War Action Group, said: “Many of the UK’s most respected universities—including ours, Oxford — have cashed in on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” They cited figures obtained by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade under the Freedom of Information act, showing Oxford invested on average £4.5m a year between 2008 and 2010 in UK and US-based arms manufacturers.

The article highlighted Oxford’s £1.4 million investment in arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which makes the Hellfire missile, and cluster bombs, which are illegal under UK law. This March the Guardian reported figures showing that Hellfire was responsible for injuries that cost the Ministry of Defence more than $60,000 in compensation to Afghan families.

The article said: “Anti-War Action said: “Saying you have a socially responsible investment policy while carrying on investing in cluster bombs is like telling the world you’re teetotal and then embarking on a binge.”

They criticised the Socially Responsible Investment review committee, which reviews the investments Robertson manages at OUEM. A member said the Committee “absolutely refused to look at the issue ethically, to examine it. Nowhere do they look with any rigour at concrete examples of what the University invests in, what these weapons are actually used for, what other institutions are doing. The University’s process has been totally lacking in intellectual rigour. For thirty pieces of silver it has decided that it sees no evil and hears no evil.”

OUSU Vice-President for Charities and Community Daniel Lowe said: “Oxford dons must talk about ethics, particularly with reference to investments. There is no debate to be had: the University of Oxford believes in Socially Responsible Investment – now it must implement that belief.”

A University spokesperson said that Sandra Robertson, Chief Investment Officer at Oxford University Endowment Management declined to comment.

A University spokesperson said: “Note that the University invests in funds, not individual companies…The Socially Responsible Investment review committee is responsible for considering the ethical implications made by OUEM…[which] implements the decisions of Council and the Investment Committee; OUEM or its officers’ ethical views are neither expressed nor sought.”

Christ Church professor Peter Oppenheimer said: “You can’t just say bugger ethics. But the line has to be drawn very narrowly – there’s lots of evil in the world and you have to have concrete examples before you can dismiss investments entirely.”

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