Faith-based organisations and religious communities worldwide are invited to join the Global Campaign on Military Spending, which is part of the Disarmament for Sustainable Development programme. The main aim of this initiative is to press for an end to the over-funding of military establishments and for the creation of new funds to tackle human insecurity and common threats to the planet. In addition, the campaign supports all efforts to limit or eliminate weapons that impact negatively on communities in conflict zones. We are approaching faith-based organisations to stimulate conversations and actions around this issue.
Two major concerns of humankind in general are development and disarmament, both inseparable from the peace point of view.
We define disarmament as the reduction and elimination of weapons, weapon materials, and weapon delivery systems, in order to enhance security, peace, and the survival of humanity.
–UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, August 2012
Our definition of development is the reduction of poverty, satisfaction of human needs, and the steady improvement of the quality of life (economic, social, and environmental) for all individuals through sustained efforts by the global community.
Disarmament and development should be mutually reinforcing processes: disarmament helps to create conditions favourable for development, while development creates conditions favourable for disarmament. Security is intertwined with development policy, peace-building, conflict prevention, human rights and good governance.
Why not channel the funds at present being spent on the military (some US$ 1735 billion annually) into development? The availability of greater investment funds, if wisely spent, would give a significant impetus to development and improve security. On the surface it is a straightforward argument.
However, disarmament and development do not automatically trigger each other: disarmament must be accompanied by efforts to build or rebuild economic, social, and governing structures that foster political participation, social integration and equality, and that transfer resources effectively to the programmes and efforts that require them most. Disarmament also does not necessarily result in an immediate surplus of resources – the disarmament process can be expensive in the short term, and funds freed by a reduction in military spending will not necessary be applied to development measures.
Nevertheless, true development is more a question of self-sufficiency, which enables a government to ensure that the basic needs of the population are satisfied. It is a question of increasing the strength and the quality of life of the people. Great efforts are needed to create a healthy, well-educated people. It is true that security costs some money. But it is also clear that weapons of mass destruction, and the expenses and risks of that, do not help to create the basic needs for security.
Responsibility of Rich Countries
The greatest military spending takes place in the rich countries, the USA alone accounting for close to 50% of the total. One topic that presents itself with great urgency is the human and financial cost of maintaining – and even rebuilding – the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons.
As U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in a final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”