17 April 2012, SWITZERLAND- Geneva

International Peace Bureau/Group for Switzerland Without an Army

1. Lunchtime seminar at the UN Diplomats and NGOs participated in this event. The panel was composed of:
• Mr. Kassym-Jomaert Tokayev, Director-General of UNOG, who highlighted the role of the civil society in drawing attention to military spending and its impact on human security.
• Ms. Theresa Hitchens, UNIDIR (chair) presented the current situation: vast amounts of money are spent to acquire military equipment while countries are struggling to reach the MDGs.
• Amb. Minelik Alemu Getahun, current President of the CD, Ethiopia – explained the dilemma faced by a poor country in a tough neighbourhood with many security challenges.
• Mr. Colin Archer, IPB, talked about the scarcity of resources as the likely root of future conflicts and as one main reason for high military spending.
• Ms. Helen Wilandh, SIPRI researcher, presented SIPRI’s new figures (2011) and trends in military spending.
• Mr. Jarmo Sareva, Deputy Director ODA, summed up the general outcomes of the discussion.

The seminar was felt to be a success. It created a good spirit that can be used to develop stronger connections with representatives during the summer and beyond.

2. Street action at the Place Neuve
It was organized by IPB and the Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSoA). The action attracted a lot of passers-by who then took part in a ‘role play’ in which they could tell how they would use public money (approx 60-80 persons).

a) Interactive activity

The main aim of the action was to raise awareness among the general public about the issue. Passers-by received information about military spending, but not only: they expressed their priorities on a board (cf. picture) and could then explain their reasons during short interviews (cf. video).
Many hand-outs were available on different topics: arms trade in Switzerland, the Rio Appeal, and the GDAMS brochure. People could also sign a petition to support the Rio Appeal which aims at promoting the idea that disarmament is an essential condition to ensure sustainable development (about 60 signatures).

b) 2 Visual installations
• Balloons to show the gap between global military spending (represented by 150 black balloons) and what is needed for the MDGs (30 coloured balloons).
• Map showing the top 15 spenders.

See video of the Street Action here.