The Stockholm Institute for Peace Research (SIPRI) today announced that global military spending totaled at $1676 billion in 2015, which represents an increase of about 1 % in real terms from 2014, the first increase since 2011. The figures again show that the world continues to waste far too much money on weapons instead of investing in peace.
The release of these figures marks the beginning of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS), a two-week campaign during which peace groups around the world hold events challenging excessive military spending and militarist cultures and calling for resources to be put towards more peaceful ends.
Much like last year, in 2015 the top 10 countries with the highest military spending are: United States of America, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, Japan, Germany, and South Korea.
SIPRI explains, “Military expenditure in North America and Western Europe fell again in 2015, but at a slower pace than in previous years. Military expenditure decreased in Africa, breaking an 11-year trend of spending increases. Spending in Latin America and the Caribbean also declined. In contrast, spending in Central and Eastern Europe continued to rise sharply. There were also substantial increases in Asia and Oceania and in those countries in the Middle East for which data is available.”
Inextricably linked with military spending is the irresponsible sale of arms, which exacerbates the humanitarian situation in conflict zones such as Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine, as well as situations of armed violence around the world.
A February 2016 Control Arms report found that a number of states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) have reported licenses and sales to Saudi Arabia worth nearly $25 billion in 2015 including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets, and missiles. The bloody conflict in Yemen between the Houthi militia and the Saudi-led coalition has seen serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by all parties to the conflict. Continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, the largest importer of arms in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is a clear breach of ATT states parties’ legal obligations under the Treaty.
You get what you pay for
For the first time SIPRI also published a background paper that discusses on the one hand government priorities comparing military and health expenditure (over the past 15-20 years) and on the other what could be achieved at the global level by moving the money towards the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While the comparison of health and military spending shows a trend increased priority of states to public health expenditure over the past 20 years and a reduced priority to military spending, the Institute does not find that “the rise in health spending and decline in military spending as a share of GDP represents some sort of deliberate ‘peace dividend’ policy aimed at redirecting resources from the military to health.”
According to SIPRI, reallocating only around 10 per cent of world military spending as suggested by the Global Campaign on Military Spending to finance key SDGs “would be enough to achieve major progress, supposing that such funds could be effectively channeled towards these goals and that major obstacles, such as corruption and conflict, could be overcome.”
Move the money
Consequently, States should be investing in peace and humanitarian needs rather than overindulgent military spending and weapons trading. Finding alternative solutions to conflict means prioritising different approaches to our social, political, and military organisation. It demands diverting money from the military towards social and economic justice and equality.
The city of Cambridge in Massachusetts, USA, has decided to do just that. On 2 April, Mayor Denise Simmons announced that the Cambridge City Council has unanimously decided to divest their city pension fund from nuclear weapons production. This effectively removes US$ 1 billion from possible investment in the companies most heavily involved in producing and modernising nuclear weapons. This is a great example of actions that can and should be undertaken over the next two weeks and beyond.