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The Key to Achieving SDG16 Is to #MoveTheMoney

18 July 2016

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From 11-20 July governments are meeting for the first time to assess and review the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) at UN Headquarters in New York.

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 focuses on peace, justice, and strong institutions. Among other things, it aims to, “by 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organised crime.”

The key to achieving this goal is to address the extreme imbalance between spending on militarism and spending on disarmament, arms control, and other conflict prevention measures.


According to the Stockholm Institute for Peace Research (SIPRI), global military spending for 2015 totaled US $1676 billion. This represents an increase of about 1% in real terms since 2014, the first increase since 2011.

This excessive military spending acts as a barrier to implementation of the SDGs, as resources spent on weapons are not spent on supporting social development and poverty alleviation. In fact, money spent on weapons often exacerbates challenges to development and equality.

Achieving the 17 SDGs requires further financial investments by states, but if just 10% of the nearly $1.7 trillion spent on military equipment, soldiers, and wars were redirected to health, education, agriculture and food security, access to modern energy, water supply and sanitation, telecommunications and transport infrastructure, ecosystems and emergency response and humanitarian work, climate change mitigation and adaption, we would begin to see major progress on some key SDGs.

Proliferation of weapons undermines economic and social development

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In theory, the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) regulates the legal trade of arms and commits state parties (under article 7) to evaluate the risk that the weapons could be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations, including gender-based violence. Effective implementation of the ATT and 2001 UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW) in all its aspects (UNPoA) can prevent gender-based violence and gender discrimination in disarmament and arms control processes. But the weakness of the legal frameworks on arms control means that the arms trade continues to fuel the proliferation in small arms and light weapons (SALW) and other conventional weapons, threatening the lives of millions around the world every year and causing mass displacement and refugee flows.

As Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations said at the Sixth Biannual Meeting of States (BMS6) to consider implementation of the UNPoA, “The accumulation of SALW undermines economic and social development and the provision of essential services, as huge national resources are diverted from development to address the negative impact of these weapons.”

Direct and indirect effects

In June 2016, Guy Feugap from WILPF Cameroon visited Geneva to speak at a side event on human rights and civilian access to firearms, and the links to gender-based violence at the Human Rights Council. While in Geneva, he also addressed the Civil Society Forum for the Conference on Disarmament. He highlighted the direct and indirect impact of weapons on sustainable development and gender-based violence in Cameroon, noting that “the culture of domestic violence is increasing because of the availability of firearms.”

Mr. Feugap is a schoolteacher in Cameroon. He has witnessed the direct impact of weapons on education. He said, “For example, for upcoming September when school will resume, many families are not ready to send their daughters to school because they fear for their security.”

Disarmament and development are two mutually reinforcing processes: disarmament helps create conditions favourable for development, while development creates conditions favourable for disarmament. Excessive military spending, aimed at strengthening a model national security rooted in the violent patriarchal system, is not conducive to sustainable development or the creation of human security for everyone.

For more details on #movethemoney, please see our project on Women, Peace and Security Financing!

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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