Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) is a defence and security equipment exhibition held every two years in London Docklands, which draws thousands of visitors, both trade and military. It is an important event in the international military and national security equipment sales calendar and is organised in association with UK Trade & Investment's Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO). It is the world’s largest fully integrated international defence exhibition featuring land, sea and air products and technologies.
2013 has seen DSEI grow even larger than previous years. With 32,169 visitors, 1489 international exhibitors, 40 pavilions, 97 official delegations and 1,034 additional VIPs, DSEI is seen as the place to go for everything under one roof.
Additionally 2013 has also saw new areas develop and become key areas, such as Security and Special Forces Zone and Medical and Disaster Relief Zone.
Between 1976 and 1991, the British Army Equipment Exhibition and the Royal Navy Equipment Exhibition were held on alternate years in Aldershot and Portsmouth respectively. Overseas delegations attended by invitation only. Despite having been at war with Iran for almost six years, a five-strong delegation from Iraq attended in 1986.
In 1993 the two exhibitions were combined and held every other year until the British government decided to privatise the exhibition. Exhibitions company Spearhead launched the first DSEI, then known as Defence Systems and Equipment International, in 1999 at Chertsey in Surrey. In 2001 it moved to its current location at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London Docklands. DSEI's name was changed in 2009, replacing the word Systems with Security.
In April 2008 DSEI was acquired by Clarion Events, the largest independent event organiser in the UK. At the same time Clarion also acquired ITEC - a conference and exhibition dedicated to military simulation, training and education - and Latin American Aerospace and Defence.
It was suggested by CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) that former owners Reed Exhibitions' decision to sell followed substantial criticism both from healthcare professionals and academics, as well as pressure from campaigners.
DSEI works closely with UKTI DSO to invite foreign military delegations. Some of the nations attending have been accused of human rights violations, leading to concerns over their involvement. Defence exhibitions such as these have also been accused of furthering intra- and international conflicts by providing the weapons used.[who?]
However there are guidelines that are made and followed. These come from a number of places including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The United Nations, FCO and ECO.
The event has attracted much attention from activist groups. In 2001, 2003, and 2005 were all targets of sizeable protests. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been critical of the event and even the Metropolitan Police have spoken out about the cost of policing the event. In 2013 the London Mayor Boris Johnson supported the exhibition, which caused controversy with activists.
At DSEI 2003, 54 people were arrested around the site. 2,600 security guards and police officers were guarding the site. Scotland Yard spent £1m on policing the event. The police were granted permission by David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, to use special powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 against protesters at the exhibition. The grant was criticised by Liberty and opposition politicians.
On the first day of the exhibition in 2005, CAAT organised a march through the streets of East Ham towards the ExCeL centre in which hundreds participated. Newham residents also took part in a silent candle-lit vigil for peace. Though the protests are non-violent, but have the tendency to become violent and destructive, nonetheless over a thousand police were deployed as security for DSEI 2005, at a cost of £4.4 million.
DSEI 2005 was held from 13 to 16 September. It was 30% bigger than 2003's event, and in addition to traditional military systems & equipment, displayed "products and services related to Homeland security, anti-terrorism, access control, and personal security."
DSEI 2007 was held on 11–14 September at the ExCeL centre.
The Space Hijackers protest group managed to successfully drive a tank up near to ExCeL after distracting police with a decoy vehicle. The tank was then "sold" to the highest bidder in a mock auction outside the exhibition in front of the press in order to highlight the lack of controls over the arms trade. However the exhibition has successful carried on for a further three shows.
DSEI 2009 was held 08-11 September 2009 at the ExCeL centre.
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- DSEI Defence Systems & Equipment International Exhibition 2013
- CAAT - Arms Fairs
- £1m police operation guards London arms exhibition | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
- Activists plan legal challenge to arms fair policing | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited