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.
On the basis of representative opinion polling, parliaments should 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. Tax revenue must be reoriented toward the promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, for research into sustainable sources of energy and for the promotion of sustainable development.
Global military spending levels constitute an unconscionable use of resources and remain at an all-time high, reaching a total of USD 1.75 trillion in 2012, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
In a world where millions of human beings live in extreme poverty, die of malnutrition and lack medical care, where pandemics continue to kill, it is imperative to pursue good faith disarmament negotiations and to shift budgets away from weapons production, war-mongering, surveillance of private persons and devote available resources to address global challenges including humanitarian relief, environmental protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, prevention of pandemics, and the development of a green economy.
The UN Post-2015 Development Agenda can only be achieved if governments change their spending habits and give priority to strengthening national and international security through the promotion of human rights.
In my next report to the Human Rights Council September session, I intend to explore the possible impact of military expenditures on an international order which is democratic and equitable. In this respect, I will examine the level of information provided to the population on military expenditures and what safeguards exist to prevent abuses in this regard.
At this stage of my investigation, I have been unable to obtain sufficient data on the actual level of all military-related expenditures in real terms and what actual percentage of national budgets (not percentage of GNP) is spent in this regard in comparison to the percentage of national budgets devoted to education and health care, medical research and the administration of justice, for instance.
I am surprised that in the current context of global socio-economic crisis, few have voiced indignation regarding the disproportionate levels of military spending. The place to exercise austerity is in wasteful military expenditures, not in social protection.
I urge Governments to considerably reduce funds allocated to the military, not only as a disarmament issue, but also as a potential contributor to social and environmental protection and call for the holding of referenda on this issue worldwide. A ten per cent reduction in military expenditures per year would be reasonable, coupled with a programme of retraining the workforce and redirecting the resources in a manner that creates employment and advances social welfare. I also encourage all States to contribute to the UN’s annual Report on Military Expenditures by submitting complete data on national defence budgets.”