Urgewald is a non-profit environmental and human rights organization. It is based in Sassenberg, a small town in western Germany, and it also runs an office in Berlin. For 25 years, urgewald has been fighting against environmental destruction and for the rights of people harmed by corporate profit interests. During these 25 years, urgewald has evolved from a small group of people to a powerful organization. It uses a “Follow the Money” strategy to address investors and other financiers. Important elements for winning campaings include strong research, political pressure, lobbying and emotional confrontation with corporate destruction. Urgewald partners with organizations worldwide that do similar work, including ICAN, ECCHR, Oxfam, Misereor, Bank Information Center Europe, International Coal Network, Climate Action Network, WWF Europe, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, CEE Bankwatch, and Counter Balance. The organization´s name Urgewald combines two words: "Urgewalt", which means elemental force and "Urwald", which is an older word for rainforest. The name reflects Urgewald´s fight against the destruction of the tropical rainforest. This is where Urgewald had its origin.
Facing Finance is a non-profit organization headquartered in Berlin that takes a stand against corporate violations in the areas of environment, climate, labour, human rights, corruption, and any use of weapons against international humanitarian law. Facing Finance analyzes the harmful social, environmental and economic impacts of the business behaviour of companies and investigates the financial relationships financial institutions have with harmful corporations. This provides a basis to raise the awareness of financial service providers, as well as politicians to the importance of binding environmental, social and governance regulations for financial institutions. Facing Finance e.V. cooperates with numerous NGOs and is part of worldwide, civil society initiatives. Facing Finance is a partner of "Banktrack", member of the "Finanzwende", the "CorA" network for corporate responsibility, the "European Responsible Investment Network" (ERIN), the "Fair Finance Guide International" (FFGi), the "Campaign to Stop Killer Robots", the "Cluster Munition Coalition", the "International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN, Nobel Peace Prize 2017) and the "International Campaign to Ban Landmines" (Nobel Peace Prize 1997).
Facing Finance and Urgewald have been instrumental in raising awareness among German and European financial service providers to take international treaties, social norms and environmental standards more into account when making investment decisions.
Urgewald and Facing Finance are two NGOs with long research experience in the topics arms industry and financial markets. Two former research projects, the Global Oil and Gas Exit List (GOGEL) and the Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), are used worldwide by financial institutions that want to divest systematically from fossil fuels. In the case of companies that deliver weapons in war zones and warring states, there is no comparable information basis. Therefore, financial institutions that want to exclude war-fueling companies from their portfolios or credit policies, are facing a lack of information. ExitArms.org aims at addressing this gap.
Right now, the European arms industry tries to portray itself as the guarantor of European security and freedom. However, many companies that currently support the Ukrainian right of self-defence with arms deliveries, also provided weapons to conflict parties in devastating and criminal wars such as the Yemen War. The defence industry presents itself as the supplier of the European security agencies, but is often involved in deliveries to the most disastrous wars in the world as well. ExitArms.org is a tool to differentiate between companies that equip the EU armies and firms that export weapons to warring states worldwide.
The arms lobby is now seizing the moment to portray itself as socially sustainable. Arms lobbyists, financial analysts and some bankers are discussing the merits of treating weapons as ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) assets. However, the discussion on the sustainability of the arms industry is not about a ban on investments in armaments, but solely about whether armaments should be considered a socially sustainable investment. The issue of nuclear power and gas has already been similarly misunderstood in the EU taxonomy. In fact, the arms industry is definitely not a sustainable investment. ExitArms.org shows why weapons do not belong in the ESG space at all.
Labelling the arms industry as socially sustainable would contradict all recognized international standards, e.g. the EU Green Deal´s social and environmental goals, the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Social Charter or the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Moreover, surveys show that the majority of people don´t see the arms industry as sustainable and don´t want armaments in their investments. The efforts of the arms lobby to present itself as an attractive sustainable investment are understandable as investors and financial institutions play a major role in the industry. Without the support of financial institutions, arms deliveries to war zones would not be possible. We believe it is time for banks and other financial institutions to take their responsibility in this issue.
This database documents and analyses arms exports between 2015 and 2020 to war zones and to warring states that conduct military conflicts without mandate from the United Nations.
Urgewald and Facing Finance generally think that conflicts should be solved without armed conflicts in order to enable a lasting and peaceful coexistence. Studies by peace researchers show that arms supplies often contribute to fueling conflicts and reinforcing human rights violations committed in them.
The United Nations see military conflicts as the second main cause of flight worldwide after climate change. Arms deliveries to warring states, especially to civil war countries or countries where human rights are systematically violated, counteract the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, because they demonstrably do not serve to secure sustainable development at the economic, social and ecological levels.
However, there may be exceptions, such as the current Ukrainian case, in which state, supranationally organized or coordinated arms exports can be a short-term means to exercise the right of self-defence against a war of aggression in violation of international law, according to Article 51 of the UN Charter.
We fundamentally reject commercial arms deals that support states waging wars of aggression contrary to international law or conducting military conflicts without a UN mandate. It is mainly such deliveries that are recorded in ExitArms.org.
The war in Ukraine should not lead to the right to self-defence being abused in order to justify future arms deliveries of any kind and to any recipient. It is important to differentiate to avoid that politics of interests is pursued under the guise of humanitarianism. Weapons deliveries must not be seen as a general task of future foreign and security policy or conflict resolution strategies.
"Although it is evident that arms exports are not the sole, inevitable and direct cause of the outbreak of violent conflicts, nevertheless, they fuel emerging and ongoing conflicts by enabling individual conflict actors to implement their violent strategies."
Felix Braunsdorf: Causes of Flight “Made in Europe”, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 2016
"Irresponsible deliveries of conventional arms can lead to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, promote inter- and intranational conflicts, lead to political instability, insecurity and reduced economic growth, and can cause irresponsible procurement practices as well as corruption and misappropriation of public funds."
Global Investor Statement on the Arms Trade, 2011,
signatories include: AEGON Asset Management,
Danske Bank, delta lloyd, ING, PGGM, Triodos Bank, Sustainalytics