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.

Climate or military?

The publication of the latest volume from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – which focuses on reducing carbon emissions – has coincidentally come as the annual figures on global military spending are released. Comparing these sources provides a revealing insight into the priorities of our political masters – and how they misuse science and technology.

Global military spending in 2013 stood at a whopping $1.75 trillion, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This is a small decrease in real terms from the post-Cold War peak in 2011. The USA continued to dominate, spending nearly 37% of the total – though its spending is finally falling following the huge rises during the ‘War on Terror’. Nevertheless it still spends as much as the next eight countries put together. Chinese and Russian spending continued to grow rapidly – driven by various territorial disputes, economic growth, and a desire to close some of the spending gap with the US. Spending in Western Europe was down, but the region still spent an enormous $312 billion – more than China and Russia combined – with France, the UK and Germany being responsible for the majority of this. Numerous other regions and countries saw increases due to local arms races or war, but less obvious drivers were high levels of oil and gas extraction or just economic growth.

Read here the complete blog entry by Dr Stuart Parkinson posted on global day of action on military spending, GDAMS 2014.

 

UK campaigners call for spending shift from weapons to welfare

UK arms trade campaigners said they were angry as new Stockholm International Peace Research Institute figures put Britain among the world’s biggest military spenders.

Campaigners call for government spending to be redirected to vital services and away from weapons and war.

  • UK military spending sixth highest in the world
  • Campaign events taking place in 11 UK cities as part of Global Day of Action on Military Spending

The UK plans to spend £38 billion in 2014/15, and has committed to renewing trident nuclear weapons at a cost of £100 billion.

Campaigners, who will be marking the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, have called for military spending to instead be redirected towards vital public services.

SIPRI’s report reveals that global military spending is estimated to be roughly $1.75 trillion, with large increases having taken place in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America in the last year.

Click here to read the complete article.

Greenpeace: Divert excessive weapon spending to achieve clean energy future

According to new figures released on Monday, last year a whopping US$1747 billion was spent on armies across the world. Modest decreases in spending in austerity hit Western Europe and reduced spending in the US, which is still the biggest spender by far with almost 40% of global spending, were matched by increased spending in Eastern Europe and Asia. While the West still spent over half of global defense outlays, this is down from two-thirds of global totals in 2010. In the perverted logic that equates development and regional power with military might, emerging economies continue to ramp up their so-called defense spending levels. ‘Defense’ outlays in China and Russia have been rising since 2008 by more than 40% and 30% respectively, while massive increases are also taking place in India and Saudi Arabia.

Not only is weapon spending higher now than in the peak of the Cold War, it is also projected to further increase this year, after five years of remaining relatively stable.

“The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded,” said Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General. When you consider these figures alongside the volume of international weapon trade, which has also grown by 14% in the last four years, it is hard to disagree. Consider this – the regular budget of the UN, the body set up following World War II to preserve peace through international cooperation and collective security – is only US$2.7 billion. A fraction of what is spent on weapons.

Sadly, there is a large gap between which countries are prepared to allocate for military means to prepare for war and maintain their global and regional power status, on the one hand, and to prevent war and promote true security, on the other. Fighting poverty, which kills millions worldwide, and promoting sustainable development, gets only a fraction in comparison to these so called ‘defense’ spending. In fact, the term ‘defense’ spending, commonly used to describe these costs, is grossly misleading as spending on tanks, bombs, battleships, nukes and so on does little to defend people, but rather defends the interests of those who are in the business of war – manufacturing, trading and subsidizing weapons.

Only last month, we heard the world’s leading scientists warn that climate change will increasingly threat human security and could, if not addressed, fuel insecurity and conflicts. A grim picture, but there is room for hope. A new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this weekend shows that climate action is in fact an opportunity, not a burden. The report makes the solution crystal clear: transforming the world’s power system from one that is dominated by fossil fuels to one dominated by renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Renewables – safer, cleaner and now cheaper than ever – hold the key to our future.

Earlier this year, we heard US Secretary of State calling climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”. It is only right then that money is diverted for defending us from such destruction. That would be a true defense spending. It is coal plants and oil rigs that are in fact weapons of mass destruction – not only destroying our planet, but killing people already. And subsidizing fossil fuels at a total of US$1.9 trillion annually is no less than a crime against humanity.

In light of the rough estimates by the IPCC and others, diverting even half of military spending into preventing climate change and adapting to the impacts we can no longer avoid would bring much more security than any tanks and bombs can ever do. In return, we would get clean and safe energy, clearer skies, healthier oceans and a better future for our children. Just imagine how fast we could achieve the clean energy future climate scientists are calling for if we redirected all this money.

- Blogpost by Jen Maman, Greenpeace International