Getting Marseille to stop banking on the bomb

In August, ICAN France participated to the Summer University of ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens) in Marseille, France. Open to all, and hosting about 1.000 activists, this year the annual congress focused its conferences, workshops and other activities (theatre, movie, trainings, etc) on « Climate, debt and austerity ». Patrice Bouveret and Silene Theobald, both members of ICAN France, had the opportunity to run a stand during these four days to present and discuss ICAN’s objectives with numerous activists coming from all over France. On the third day they also organized a workshop about « Financing nuclear weapons: weight of public spending and role of French banks ».
The French government decided to spend 19.7 billion of Euros by 2019 to modernise its nuclear arsenal. These expenditures weigh heavily on the public budget and seem unreasonable at this difficult economic moment. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. And yet, it is financed by banks that make money available to the nuclear weapon industry. Each citizen in France must be fully informed about his bank’s activities and know that divestment actions are possible, as it has been shown in the Netherlands and Norway.

The aim of the workshop was to inform in detail the participants about the very numerous French financial institutions that invest in the nuclear weapon industry on the basis of the 2014 Don’t Bank on the Bomb report. Particular emphasis was placed on the sectorial policies implemented by BNP Paribas and Société Générale. These French banks claim to be against nuclear weapons, while accepting to finance companies who produce them for NATO members. Lastly, using other countries’ examples, possible public and media actions were discussed.

Even for a very activist types, the topic of the financing of nuclear weapons producers was very new and surprising. The workshop received very strong and positive reactions. Many participants were shocked to realize that that many French financial institutions, and in many cases their own banks, were investing in companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons. And above all, many were disappointed to discover that very few options exist in France to choose a bank that is not involved in that industry in any way.

– Silene Theobald, ICAN France

written by

Susi Snyder is the nuclear disarmament programme leader for PAX (formerly IKV Pax Christi) in the Netherlands. She is one of the primary authors of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Don't Bank on the Bomb reports.

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