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.

Seacoast Peace Response sponsors annual ‘Penny Poll’

PORTSMOUTH —Seacoast Peace Response will hold its annual War Tax Education Penny Poll in Market Square on Tuesday, April 15, federal income tax day.The poll will be held from 3 to 5 p.m.Organizers say the event is held to call attention to the cost of the militarized federal budget. Literature on how tax dollars are spent will be available to people as the vote in the penny poll.

According to National Priorities Project, www.nationalpriorities.org, 55.2 percent of tax dollars are spent on defense. Only 6.2 percent go to education, 5.6 percent to veterans benefits, 4.9 percent to health, and 3.3 percent to energy and environment. Seacoast Peace Response and N.H. Peace Action are participating in “Move the Money,” a national campaign to reduce military spending by at least 25 percent and to move the money into local programs that meet human needs. The U.S. currently spends more on its military than all other countries combined, according to organizers.

The Penny Poll is a large display board with options for people to place pennies, provided by the group, in the categories they think tax money should be spent. Some options include veterans benefits, environmental protection, housing and health care. In last year’s Penny poll, health care received the most votes with environmental protection close behind.

Seacoast Peace Response is a community group based in Portsmouth since 2001. It is dedicated to promoting peace and justice worldwide. For more information, visit www.seacoastpeaceresponse.org.

For more information on the event, call Bill Woodward at 866-3254, visit www.peace-action.org or join the worldwide Global Day of Action on Military Spending on April 15 by visiting demilitarize.org/organizers-packet.

Security researchers, watchdog groups call for military spending transparency in Turkey

A global security research organization has added its voice to a collection of government budget watchdog groups in calling for Turkey to make its military budget smaller and more transparent.

In a report authored by Nurhan Yenturk, a scholar at Istanbul Bilgi University, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed that as of 2012 Turkey’s military expenditure rate (2.35 percent of GDP) ranked 15th globally among countries with highest military spending rates.

The study covers military expenditures from 2006-2012 and forecasts the figures for 2013-2015. It draws attention to the need for transparency and accountability in military expenditures with further parliamentary oversight and auditing, while it also calls for a reduction in the size of the army and a decrease in spending on personnel.

The conclusions echo those of the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, a group of more than 50 civil society organisations in Turkey, which has monitored public expenditures since 2010. The group has drawn attention to increases in health, education and welfare programmes that could be achieved by trimming the military budget.

Yenturk said that in 14 of the 16 years from 1988 to 2004, military spending outpaced the combined amounts spent on the Ministry of Education, the Council of Higher Education (YOK) and public universities.

“After 2004, education spending raised above military spending. This long period of high military spending obviously had created a cumulative impact on current problems such as a growing unskilled labour force and low levels of labour productivity,” Yenturk told SES Türkiye.

The report revealed that the ratio of the military expenditures has decreased since 2001.

“The 2001 economic crisis and the rule of the Justice and Development Party [AKP] since late 2002 are main factors affecting the decrease. But after 2006 until 2014, except for 2009, the downward trend has stopped and the ratio of military spending to GDP remained constant,” Yenturk said.

Sirin Unal and Oguz Kagan Koksal, AKP members of the parliamentary National Defence Commission, did not respond to SES Türkiye’s requests for comment.

According to Yenturk, a decrease in military spending would create room for paying a significant number of uninsured citizens’ general health contributions by public support, while also helping households living in poverty.

Due to a legislative change in 2010, the Turkish Court of Accounts audits military spending on parliament’s behalf. However, the publication of auditing reports on defence, security and intelligence institutions is restricted by secrecy rules, undermining transparency as well as parliamentary and civilian monitoring.

A new law passed by the parliament in late February gave the military new economic privileges. All military facilities, officers’ clubs, hostels, training centres, as well as military museums and military clubs will be exempted from corporate taxes as well as real estate property taxes. The army will be also allowed to allocate its properties to foreign companies and organisations either by charging a fee or free of charge.

Yenturk added that there is no meaningful performance-based auditing to assess the quantity and quality of public institutions’ services and to prevent them from wasting resources. But she did point out the contributions of the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, which sent a letter to parliament in 2012 comparing military and social expenditures. The Education Reform Initiative (ERG) under Istanbul’s Sabanci University is a member of the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform.

Emre Uckardesler, a policy analyst at ERG, told SES Türkiye that although the public expenditures devoted to education in Turkey have regularly increased during the 2000s, the current figures are still far from sufficient.

“The OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] average for public education expenditures is around 5.5 percent of the GDP. Turkey is still behind the OECD average,” Uckardesler said. “UNESCO recommends that countries with similar economic development levels to Turkey need to spend around 6 percent of the GDP on public education. By that criterion, Turkish figures are even less satisfactory.”

“In Turkey education strategic plans and education budgets need to be prepared through a more participatory process. The education budget is largely prepared by public officials and politicians, with little involvement by stakeholders. Similarly, the level of accountability to public stakeholders needs to increase along with better feedback and monitoring mechanisms,” he added.

Uckardesler also said there are signs of progress, as public schools started to register and report their budgets via electronic database, and the national school funding mechanism is becoming more simplified.

“Thus, it is anticipated that in the near future funds allocated to individual schools will be more in line with and adequate to meet their needs,” he added.

The SIPRI report states that while details about some military expenditures are available online — like the budget of the Ministry of Defence, or expenditures of General Staff, Gendarmerie General Command or the Defence Ministry’s Undersecretariat for the Defence Industry (SSM) — access to information about other issues is incomplete and sometimes impossible to find.

The Defence Industry Support Fund, the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation, military research and developments, and financial transfers to northern Cyprus for military purposes are partly disclosed to the greater public. The expenditure information about the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces — which establishes partnerships with private defence companies and is one of their shareholders — and the pensions of retired army personnel are beyond oversight or are highly restricted.

The SIPRI report also said the Defence Ministry should take on oversight of the Office of the Chief of General Staff and adds that “there should not be a separate judicial mechanism within the military.”

Lale Sariibrahimoglu, a military affairs expert and columnist, said the lack of transparency and accountability in the defence sector is one of the main reasons why military expenditures are so high.

“Despite being a NATO member, Turkey has not ensured full democratic control of its military,” Sariibrahimoglu told SES Türkiye. “If the transparency and a mechanism of accountability are established for the military expenditures, the ratio will decrease because the authorities would begin to allocate financial resources into the right places and in more smart ways due to the concern of giving its account to the greater public.”

Sariibrahimoglu added that oversight of military expenditures is an important component of good governance, but Turkey has had high military spending since the establishment of the republic, and that the decisions have been beyond civilian and parliamentary control.

Sariibrahimoglu also said the main criterion for any country’s military expenditures is its threat assessment.

“However, a significant part of these evaluations is always kept secret from the civilian oversight in Turkey, while in Western democracies and in NATO countries, such assessments are shared with the public in general traits by the decision makers,” Sariibrahimoglu said. “Accordingly, military forces are deployed in a specific location and they are re-structured in line with the external threats.”

According to the latest figures of NATO, the ratio of military expenditures to GDP is nearly 2.9 percent in all of NATO’s 27 member countries, while in Turkey this ratio is at 2.4 percent.

“Especially since 2004, Turkey began to re-design its defence policies by cancelling some of the joint projects with the foreign companies in order to build its national battle tank and attack helicopter by its own resources. However, if the transparency and the accountability became the rule, such domestic projects would be much more resource-efficient,” Sariibrahimoglu said.

She added that the authorities use the justification of “regional threats” as a motto to easily increase their military expenditures out of public oversight.

“If the public is much more informed about the extent and the content of these expenditures, they will, for instance, start to interrogate why Turkey has begun buying only recently, for instance, mine resistant vehicles to use in the fight against terrorism despite a three-decade long low intensity warfare and why it hasn’t prioritised counter-terrorism projects over the purchase of conventional weapons,” Sariibrahimoglu said.

Turkish officials have repeatedly drawn attention to the need for ending terrorism throughout the country in order to decrease military spending.

Last year, Binali Yildirim, the former minister of transport, maritime affairs and communications, told reporters that the fight against terrorism in Turkey contributed to high military spending.

“Because of terror, we wasted our resources worth more than $400 billion,” Yildirim said. “These resources were wasted for nothing and they only left tears behind. If we invested $400 billion — and we spent $150 billion for investments over a decade — we could build 400 bridges over the Bosphorus or railways with lengths of 100,000 kilometres. Hopefully, we could get rid of that trouble and we could spend our resources for the future of our country.”

Security researchers, watchdog groups call for military spending transparency

A global security research organisation has added its voice to a collection of government budget watchdog groups in calling for Turkey to make its military budget smaller and more transparent.

In a report authored by Nurhan Yenturk, a scholar at Istanbul Bilgi University, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed that as of 2012 Turkey’s military expenditure rate (2.35 percent of GDP) ranked 15th globally among countries with highest military spending rates.

The study covers military expenditures from 2006-2012 and forecasts the figures for 2013-2015. It draws attention to the need for transparency and accountability in military expenditures with further parliamentary oversight and auditing, while it also calls for a reduction in the size of the army and a decrease in spending on personnel.

The conclusions echo those of the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, a group of more than 50 civil society organisations in Turkey, which has monitored public expenditures since 2010. The group has drawn attention to increases in health, education and welfare programmes that could be achieved by trimming the military budget.

Yenturk said that in 14 of the 16 years from 1988 to 2004, military spending outpaced the combined amounts spent on the Ministry of Education, the Council of Higher Education (YOK) and public universities.

“After 2004, education spending raised above military spending. This long period of high military spending obviously had created a cumulative impact on current problems such as a growing unskilled labour force and low levels of labour productivity,” Yenturk told SES Türkiye.

The report revealed that the ratio of the military expenditures has decreased since 2001.

“The 2001 economic crisis and the rule of the Justice and Development Party [AKP] since late 2002 are main factors affecting the decrease. But after 2006 until 2014, except for 2009, the downward trend has stopped and the ratio of military spending to GDP remained constant,” Yenturk said.

Sirin Unal and Oguz Kagan Koksal, AKP members of the parliamentary National Defence Commission, did not respond to SES Türkiye’s requests for comment.

According to Yenturk, a decrease in military spending would create room for paying a significant number of uninsured citizens’ general health contributions by public support, while also helping households living in poverty.

Due to a legislative change in 2010, the Turkish Court of Accounts audits military spending on parliament’s behalf. However, the publication of auditing reports on defence, security and intelligence institutions is restricted by secrecy rules, undermining transparency as well as parliamentary and civilian monitoring.

A new law passed by the parliament in late February gave the military new economic privileges. All military facilities, officers’ clubs, hostels, training centres, as well as military museums and military clubs will be exempted from corporate taxes as well as real estate property taxes. The army will be also allowed to allocate its properties to foreign companies and organisations either by charging a fee or free of charge.

Yenturk added that there is no meaningful performance-based auditing to assess the quantity and quality of public institutions’ services and to prevent them from wasting resources. But she did point out the contributions of the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, which sent a letter to parliament in 2012 comparing military and social expenditures. The Education Reform Initiative (ERG) under Istanbul’s Sabanci University is a member of the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform.

Emre Uckardesler, a policy analyst at ERG, told SES Türkiye that although the public expenditures devoted to education in Turkey have regularly increased during the 2000s, the current figures are still far from sufficient.

“The OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] average for public education expenditures is around 5.5 percent of the GDP. Turkey is still behind the OECD average,” Uckardesler said. “UNESCO recommends that countries with similar economic development levels to Turkey need to spend around 6 percent of the GDP on public education. By that criterion, Turkish figures are even less satisfactory.”

“In Turkey education strategic plans and education budgets need to be prepared through a more participatory process. The education budget is largely prepared by public officials and politicians, with little involvement by stakeholders. Similarly, the level of accountability to public stakeholders needs to increase along with better feedback and monitoring mechanisms,” he added.

Uckardesler also said there are signs of progress, as public schools started to register and report their budgets via electronic database, and the national school funding mechanism is becoming more simplified.

“Thus, it is anticipated that in the near future funds allocated to individual schools will be more in line with and adequate to meet their needs,” he added.

The SIPRI report states that while details about some military expenditures are available online — like the budget of the Ministry of Defence, or expenditures of General Staff, Gendarmerie General Command or the Defence Ministry’s Undersecretariat for the Defence Industry (SSM) — access to information about other issues is incomplete and sometimes impossible to find.

The Defence Industry Support Fund, the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation, military research and developments, and financial transfers to northern Cyprus for military purposes are partly disclosed to the greater public. The expenditure information about the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces — which establishes partnerships with private defence companies and is one of their shareholders — and the pensions of retired army personnel are beyond oversight or are highly restricted.

The SIPRI report also said the Defence Ministry should take on oversight of the Office of the Chief of General Staff and adds that “there should not be a separate judicial mechanism within the military.”

Lale Sariibrahimoglu, a military affairs expert and columnist, said the lack of transparency and accountability in the defence sector is one of the main reasons why military expenditures are so high.

“Despite being a NATO member, Turkey has not ensured full democratic control of its military,” Sariibrahimoglu told SES Türkiye. “If the transparency and a mechanism of accountability are established for the military expenditures, the ratio will decrease because the authorities would begin to allocate financial resources into the right places and in more smart ways due to the concern of giving its account to the greater public.”

Sariibrahimoglu added that oversight of military expenditures is an important component of good governance, but Turkey has had high military spending since the establishment of the republic, and that the decisions have been beyond civilian and parliamentary control.

Sariibrahimoglu also said the main criterion for any country’s military expenditures is its threat assessment.

“However, a significant part of these evaluations is always kept secret from the civilian oversight in Turkey, while in Western democracies and in NATO countries, such assessments are shared with the public in general traits by the decision makers,” Sariibrahimoglu said. “Accordingly, military forces are deployed in a specific location and they are re-structured in line with the external threats.”

According to the latest figures of NATO, the ratio of military expenditures to GDP is nearly 2.9 percent in all of NATO’s 27 member countries, while in Turkey this ratio is at 2.4 percent.

“Especially since 2004, Turkey began to re-design its defence policies by cancelling some of the joint projects with the foreign companies in order to build its national battle tank and attack helicopter by its own resources. However, if the transparency and the accountability became the rule, such domestic projects would be much more resource-efficient,” Sariibrahimoglu said.

She added that the authorities use the justification of “regional threats” as a motto to easily increase their military expenditures out of public oversight.

“If the public is much more informed about the extent and the content of these expenditures, they will, for instance, start to interrogate why Turkey has begun buying only recently, for instance, mine resistant vehicles to use in the fight against terrorism despite a three-decade long low intensity warfare and why it hasn’t prioritised counter-terrorism projects over the purchase of conventional weapons,” Sariibrahimoglu said.

Turkish officials have repeatedly drawn attention to the need for ending terrorism throughout the country in order to decrease military spending.

Last year, Binali Yildirim, the former minister of transport, maritime affairs and communications, told reporters that the fight against terrorism in Turkey contributed to high military spending.

“Because of terror, we wasted our resources worth more than $400 billion,” Yildirim said. “These resources were wasted for nothing and they only left tears behind. If we invested $400 billion — and we spent $150 billion for investments over a decade — we could build 400 bridges over the Bosphorus or railways with lengths of 100,000 kilometres. Hopefully, we could get rid of that trouble and we could spend our resources for the future of our country.”

Mary Zerkel (USA) on Endless War or Investment for the Future

Mary Zerkel’s Truthout article,  “Dollars for Endless War or Investment in a New Era” highlights that the Obama budget is only slight better, failing to meet our society’s urgent needs while increasing military spending another 5%.

Read below the complete article.

Dollars for Endless War or Investment in a New Era?

The children of my daughter’s generation have spent their entire lifetime in a country at war.

She is just about to turn 12. She was born into an era of war that she and her peers rarely hear about, but the longest war in US history is quietly affecting their lives and future. Our entire country has been frozen in a brutal cycle of human and economic loss, with more than 6,000 US soldiers killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan and trillions of dollars spent on endless war.

But spring may finally be emerging. March 2014 marked the first month in over 12 years that there were zero US casualties among troops engaging in conflict – which should certainly be looked upon as a milestone. We have been drawing down our troops from Afghanistan and looking toward most of the troops coming home by year’s end. It seems we could now begin to move forward into a new era focused on a truer version of security, one that addresses what we need to survive and even prosper: investments in health, education, and other social programs that have been starved during this cold season of war spending.

Sadly, like our elusive meteorological spring, that seems to be far off on the horizon.

The president’s FY2015 budget proposal has taxpayers spending $549 billion for military programs, a 5 percent increase over last year – that’s 57 percent of our federal discretionary dollars.

And that’s not all. You might be shocked that this investment of over half a trillion dollars in military spending doesn’t include war activities – and that war spending is also going up while the war is winding down. War spending is part of a separate budget known as the “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO) account. This budget is not subject to spending caps put in place by the sequestration process and has become a convenient slush fund for the Pentagon.

In fact, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in the FY2014 budget, the Pentagon moved $20 billion in operations and maintenance costs from its base budget to the war budget. On top of that, Congress added another $9.6 billion of base spending on salaries and benefits to the OCO. This allows the Department of Defense to avoid cutting wasteful pet projects such as the failed F-35, because they have transferred essential base costs to this uncapped account. And while this budget gimmickry goes on, urgent needs at home go unaddressed, and the debt the next generation must pay for wars waged “off budget” mounts.

By the end of this year, most of our troops will be home from Afghanistan after more than a decade of war. So why is war funding going up? Our country must switch its priorities to move the money from waging wars to addressing pressing human needs.

This tax day, April 15, a diverse group of organizations mobilizing around the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)/US Tax Day, are asking Congress to get rid of the Pentagon slush fund in the OCO. With the United States spending more on the military than the next 13 biggest spender worldwide combined, worried hand wringing from the Pentagon and Congress about cuts seems disingenuous to say the least.

On tax day, I will be making visits on Capitol Hill with my daughter and 66 other young people from around the country who will be there speaking out about the disinvestment that their generation has been experiencing over the last 13 years of war.

They want and desperately need sustainable schools, up-to-date educational materials, after-school programs, food stamps for those in need, affordable college tuition, community centers and affordable housing – not more wasteful Pentagon spending. Join us. Tell Congress  to end the Pentagon slush fund within the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

This tax day, let’s turn the heat up and melt this slush fund away so we can help this generation and their communities bloom, grow and thrive.

By Mary Zerkel, Truthout | Op-Ed

UN expert urges States to cut military spending and invest more in human development

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.”