The Herald, Scotland –Agenda: It’s high time we took steps to cut hugely destructive world arms trade

For the last few years, peace groups in many countries have focused attention on worldwide military expenditure with a Global Day of Action, which took place this week.

Hundreds of civil society groups draw attention to the way the world’s $1.75 trillion military spending fuels and worsens conflict, and undermines social spending. The UK has the fourth highest military spending in the world, behind only the USA, China and Russia. It also counts among the world’s top seven arms exporters. This arms trade is seen by politicians as an essential part of both Britain’s industrial base and its place as a player on the world stage.

There is a government department, the Defence and Security Organisation [DSO], which gives expert advice on political and economic factors so that companies can target their products as effectively as possible. DSO employs 54% of all sector-specific staff in Britain’s export support department – UK Trade and Investment.

High-profile visits maintain links with potential buyers. David Cameron toured the Gulf States in November, and Prince Charles Saudi Arabia in February co-incident with BAE signing a new deal with the Saudis.

Click here to read the complete article.

South Africans should resist increased military spending

The Ceasefire Campaign once again joins hundreds of organizations representing literally millions world-wide commemorating the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

South Africa’s allocations to defense spending appear low in comparison to amounts allocated to education, social services, health and other more pressing needs.  However, this does not take into account the ongoing costs of the arms procurement deal of 1999 for which we are still paying and which is currently the subject of a commission of inquiry. The debt is owed by the Department of Finance not Defense, and therefore the amounts are excluded from defense figures.

It is a critical time for South Africa’s new democracy as we face an election 20 years down the line. Constant dissatisfaction with the pace of delivery to the poor and continued inequality will be foremost in the minds of the electorate as they go to the polls.

We acknowledge that the democratic government when it came to power in 1994 was faced with a colossal challenge to right the wrongs brought about through the despicable and inequitable system of apartheid. Notwithstanding this, South Africa would have been in a more satisfactory situation today if government had steered clear of the ill-fated arms procurement deal in its early years.

According to National Treasury, in evidence given at the Commission of Inquiry into the deal, the debacle cost R46.666-billion, financed with loans from foreign banks, with loan costs totaling R51.3-billion. However, it is believed that this is understated and is probably more in the region of R70 billion or more but no-one really knows the real cost. Revealingly, the more than 500 pages of documents released by Treasury were called back a few days later on the spurious explanation that they were classified.

Now it seems that we have learnt nothing from that early experience. Cabinet has approved a defense review document compiled by people intent on increasing military spending and who use every opportunity in forums and the media to argue that the armed forces are in decline and South Africa needs to increase its defense spending.

The defense review, and argued strenuously by committee member and unabashed militarist Helmoed Heitman, proposes an increase in military spending that will ultimately reach 2.4% of GDP. Often touted by those who stand to gain financially by increased expenditure as an appropriate level approved by the World Bank and IMF, the 2% benchmark has never been advocated by these institutions. It is rather seen as a warning that the economic wheels are likely to fall off if a country exceeds 2% of GDP over an extended period.  We fear the Defense Review 2012 pushes the increase to double the opportunities to fleece the taxpayers and for corruption.  Apartheid South Africa bankrupted itself because of excessive military spending, hence the debt standstill in 1985. Post-apartheid South Africa continues to be overly committed to military spending in contradiction to the clear commitment to human security contained in section 198 (1) of the Constitution regarding the principles guiding national security.

As we know, the warplanes are in storage because SA hasn’t the pilots to fly them, the mechanics to maintain them and even the money to fuel them.  Pilots have abandoned the SAAF for higher pay with commercial airlines, plus they do not get enough flying time to maintain their proficiencies.  The frigates and submarines rarely leave Simonstown, and one of the subs has been on the hard since 2007 for “routine maintenance” since the wrong power supply was connected to the batteries and blew the entire electrical system.   Despite that reality, the defense review advocates buying more frigates.

Hopefully the public will become more aware of the downside of the recommendations of the latest defense review when it reaches Parliament and insist that further outlay on the military and arms will not be in their name.

‘Involve civil society in military budget’

Governments must give priority to strengthening national and international security through the promotion of human rights

On the occasion of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, the United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, calls upon all governments to proactively inform the public about military expenditures and to justify them:

“Every democracy must involve civil society in the process of establishing budgets, and all sectors of society must be consulted to determine what the real priorities of the population are.

“Lobbies, including military contractors and other representatives of the military-industrial complex, must not be allowed to hijack these priorities to the detriment of the population’s real needs.”

The UN has also called on parliaments to implement the will of the people and significantly reduce military expenditures, whether in the field of arms production, military research, military bases abroad, surveillance of private citizens, ‘intelligence’-gathering, or overt and covert military operations.

Click here to read the complete article by Kua Kia Soong, Suaram advisor.

GDAMS: In Italy, the Global Day of Action will take place on 25 April at the Arena for Peace and Disarmament

Giornata globale di azione contro le spese militari: in Italia sarà celebrata il 25 aprile all’Arena di Pace e Disarmo di Verona

Praticamente immutate nel 2013 le spese militari mondiali: circa 1750 miliardi di dollari investiti in eserciti ed armamenti. Anche l’esperto delle Nazioni Unite Alfred De Zayas sottolinea come sia urgente che gli Stati invertano le loro priorità di spesa, privilegiando l’investimento sullo sviluppo umano e non sugli armamenti.

clicca qui per leggere il comunicato stampa completo.

One hundred billion dollars for nuclear weapons; one billion people in extreme poverty

GENEVA– Nine states spend over US$100 billion per year on their nuclear weapons, while projections indicate that by 2015 about one billion people will be living on an income of less than US$1.25 per day, the World Bank’s measure of extreme poverty. The use of those weapons would wreak havoc to the global economy, undermine sustainable development, and increase existing inequalities. Click to continue reading the  media release of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).