Today Monday, 15 April people from all over the world join together with different actions to focus public, political, and media attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities for the third Global Day of Action on Military Spending GDAMS. WILPF is a partner organization of the GDAMS network. We are taking part in the actions here in Geneva, while some Sections around the word are organising their own action.
Weapons or well-being?
Even though the current economic crisis has put some pressure on governments to reduce their spending, most of this has been on the essential human needs such as the achieving of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or confronting climate change. However, with very little exceptions governments continue to waste enormous resources on military. Global military spending was more than $1.75 trillion in 2012. Even though this is the first time since 1998 a fall in the total expenditure (driven by the US spending cuts linked to the budget control act) Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America increased their spending. According to SPIRI this can be seen as the beginning of a shift in the balance of world military spending from the rich Western countries to emerging regions.
The totaled amount of military expenditure is equivalent to over 24 years of the foreign aid required to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It is also equivalent to 700 years of the United Nation’s regular budget. If spend differently only in part this money could be used to address the immediate challenges such as poverty that we are facing today. For example there are figures researched that estimate the cost of reaching each of the MDGs, and at the same time show the percentage of the current military expenditure that would be needed to achieve those goals. The most expensive of the MDGs to halve extreme poverty and hunger would cost approximately $ 39-54 billion, which equals 2.6 – 3.7% of the global military spending. It is clear that you get what you pay for and we can all agree that this isn’t really a difficult choice.
This clearly shows how such excessive investment in weapons and war will continue to drain resources, in particular from the world’s poor. Given the inequalities of economic globalization and some development strategies, on one hand many countries continue to struggle to meet their objectives related to poverty, education, health, and more. While on the other hand many developing countries continue spending money on weapons and war, or on the clean-up from war. There is a clear trend at the moment that funds reserved for development initiatives are increasingly diverted to emergency relief and rehabilitation operations to clean up after violent conflict.
Excessive military investment is very often justified by a language of security and protection. However it is usually the civilians that have to pay the highest price- may it be with their lives, livelihoods or rights – when states are at war. It is still too broadly believed that security of states can be guaranteed by threats of violence.
The main threats that people are facing today, such as lack of education, health care, natural disasters, increased food prices can all not be addressed with weapons. It is important that we all bear this in mind and that we keep on addressing this issues.
The way forward
WILPF has always argued that there are direct and indirect links between increasing military expenditure and failure to uphold human rights obligations, especially rights to socioeconomic development and human security. However, governments, United Nations bodies, and even civil society tend to address issues related to militarism and weapons separately from development and human rights. If we want to see a change in this regard it is really important to keep on working on awareness rising. We need all the above mentioned to engage in this too, in order to achieve the goal of the shift from military spending to sustainable investment in development.
Today, on 15 April Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI announced the military spending figures for 2012 as mentioned above, and at the same time this is the Tax Day in the US. In many countries large parts of national budgets are spent on defence and supporting war while at the same time it is cutting back on the social services. This needs to stop!
With the numerous crises mentioned above that we are facing today WILPF calls on all governments to shift money wasted on excessive military spending to human needs and rights.
By being a part of WILPF, our members constantly challenges militarism by highlighting that governments to spend disproportionate financial, technological, and human resources on militaries and calling on them to stop doing so but instead investing in peace.
WILPF has emphasized these links between military expenditure, the arms trade, violent conflict, and the reduction of available resources for social and economic development and the promotion of gender equality for almost 100 years. We hope that on this day, you will help us share the message of GDAMS, that military spending should be decreased and resources must be shifted to human security and development!