Military spending: theft from the world’s poor
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” — Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, A Chance for Peace, 1953.
Global military spending is at an all-time high. Worldwide military spending is estimated to have been $1.53 trillion US in 2009, the latest year for which reliable figures are available. Global military spending is now higher than it was during the Cold War.
The largest spender by far is the United States, which is in a league of its own, accounting for 43 per cent of all military spending at $661 billion a year. No other country even comes close. However, the other top spenders — China, France, United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Australia and Spain — collectively spend almost as much as the United States, accounting for 39 per cent of world military spending. Canada stands 13th in the world and in 2011 spent approximately $22 billion on the military. Seven years earlier, Canada spent just over $12 billion, almost half of today’s defence budget.
At a time when some of the world’s largest economies are reeling from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and unemployment levels stand at record highs, the world arms trade is booming and has increased turnover by 147 per cent since 2002, with companies based in western Europe and North America leading the sector.
In 2010 — two years after the eruption of the global financial crisis — international arms and weapons sales reached 305.6 billion euros, according to a report released earlier this year by Swedish arms control NGO, the Stockholm International Research Institute.
How much good could we do with those resources directed toward peaceful, life-supporting activities? In an address at the Arms Down! Global Youth Campaign for Shared Security Summit in 2010, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon said: “Since the Millennium Development Goals were first articulated a decade ago, world military expenditure has risen by 50 per cent to more than $1.5 trillion. This money could surely have been much better spent on poverty reduction, climate change mitigation and adaptation, food and nutrition security, women’s and children’s health and other global development challenges.”
On April 17 peace groups all around the world are organizing to raise awareness and mobilize action to shine a light on global military spending and to ask where would you like your money to go? Over 100 events in 35 countries are planned.
The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace is calling on our elected federal representatives in Parliament to:
• Initiate a white paper on defence — to get public input into our national defence strategy. The last one was in 1994.
• Reduce military spending — at least to pre-Afghanistan levels.
• Abandon the F-35 stealth fighter program — the deception and irregularities of this program are a national disgrace and are an example of how defence spending lacks adequate public scrutiny.
• Create a national green collar jobs strategy: While Canada’s military budget has almost doubled in seven years, our spending on the environment has been virtually flatlined.
If you wish to join the thousands of people around the world who are calling upon their governments to realign their priorities to meet social, human and environmental needs, join Voice of Women and many other peace groups to observe GDAMS (Global Day of Action on Military Spending) for an information picket outside the federal building at 55 Bay St. N. in downtown Hamilton on April 17 between 11:30 and 1 p.m.
Joy Warner and Cathie Pead belong to the Hamilton Chapter of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace