April 12-13 – Basel, International Conference Move the Nuclear Weapons Money

This conference brought together legislators (mayors, city councilors and parliamentarians), financial managers, and experts in disarmament and climate change to examine successful divestment policies and support their expansion and replication. The conference also addressed impact investment and built cooperation to advance related nuclear disarmament policies. The organiser, Basel Peace Office, has joined with other partners in launching Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global initiative to cut nuclear weapons budgets and investments, and reinvest these in climate protection, peace and key areas of a sustainable economy, such as education, renewable energy, health, job creation and sustainable development.

The conference was hosted by the Basel City Kanton/government and brought together speakers from very different fields in order to tackle the corporate and financial interests which are maintaining a fossil fuel-based economy and a nuclear arms race. It advanced two key tools:

1.   Divestment from nuclear weapons and fossil fuel industries:
2.  Investment in peace and sustainability, with a focus on investments by governments, pension funds, cities, universities, religious organizations and banks.

Conference participants gave numerous examples of fossil fuel and nuclear weapons divestment. Although the amount of money divested globally so far is moderate, the range of examples indicate the potential to move considerably more money from fossil fuels and nuclear weapons to better things, and so make a real contribution to climate protection and disarmament. Quique Sánchez, a representative of IPB’s Global Campaign On Military Spending (GCOMS), participated in the conference introducing the campaign as an example of activists’ networking and cooperative work. His presentation took place on the second day of the conference, which was coincidentally the kick-off of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS), during the panel Building the campaign – shifting economics towards peace.

May 2nd, Geneva

Press Conference presenting the GCOMS Statement on global military spending, with SIPRI data and GDAMS message at the center. Organized by the International Peace Bureau.

Switzerland, Bern: Letter to the UN representatives

April 18th

Letter to ban treaty delegations calling for a prohibition on nuclear weapons financing

On the occasion of the first day of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending  2017 (GDAMS), three organisations (Basel Peace Office, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, and UNFOLD ZERO) sent a letter to the UN representatives of governments participating in the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (ban treaty), calling on them to support the proposal that the ban treaty include a prohibition on financing nuclear weapons. This would include a ban on investing in corporations that manufacture nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. The letter notes that ‘Most of the global nuclear weapons budget of $100 billion goes to about a dozen powerful corporations, all of which spend lavish amounts of money lobbying to keep the nuclear arms race going. If the nuclear prohibition treaty includes a ban on investing in these corporations, it could put a big dent in their lobbying power, and give support to legislators and civil society in nuclear-armed States who are trying to cut nuclear weapons budgets.’

April 6, Geneva (Switzerland)

“Military Costs versus Humanitarian Needs”
Venue: Ecumenical Centre, 150 Route de Ferney, Geneva
GDAMS event – Building the Global Campaign. Preparing for Berlin Congress.
Colin Archer and International Peace Bureau Secretariat
More information: secgen@ipb.org

April 2014, SWITZERLAND-Geneva

The International Peace Bureau (IPB) seminar on “Military expenditure and its relationship to the purposes of the United Nations” with Jarmo Sareva, Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Director, Office for Disarmament Affairs, Geneva Branch, Michael Møller, Acting Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Acting Director-General UN Office at Geneva, Helen Wilandh, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) , Colin Archer, Secretary-General, IPB, and Coordinator, Global Day of Action on Military Spending and Prof. Alfred de Zayas, UN Human Rights Council Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order.

Swiss gdams photo 1
Swiss gdams photo 2

15 April 2013, SWITZERLAND Geneva

International Centre, Rue de Varembé, Geneva
Organised by the International Peace Bureau

The presentations and discussion highlighted several issues:

  • The continuing support of the United Nations, both for the Global Day of Action itself, and for the UN’s own transparency instrument, the annual Report on Military Expenditures.
  • Clear evidence from SIPRI’s new data release that the global total for military expenditure (not to be confused with ‘expenditure on armaments’) has dropped, for the first time in real terms since 1998 – even though the absolute dollar figures are slightly higher than the 2011 numbers.
  • Spending has dropped mainly in Western countries, while most of the increases are in Russia, China and other developing states.
  • The importance, from the IPB point of view, of raising the issue of military spending within the ongoing consultations on the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda, ie the successor process to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Introductory remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament

Presentation by Mr. Samuel Perlo-Freeman, Director, SIPRI Military Expenditure project
Based on: Trends in World Military Expenditure 2012 – Fact Sheet

Presentation by Mr. Colin Archer, Secretary-General, International Peace Bureau
Based on: Opportunity Costs: Military Spending and the UN’s Development Agenda

Concluding remarks by Mr. Jarmo Sareva, Director, Geneva Branch, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs

17 April 2012, SWITZERLAND- Zurich

Group for Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA)

The action organized by GSoA aimed at highlighting high military expenditure. Activists were wrapped in national flags to symbolize states that are being squeezed by excessive military spending. Two fat soldiers illustrated the absurd “devouring” of tax money by the armies.

17 April 2012, SWITZERLAND- Luzern

Group for Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA)

Peace activists organized a street action to shed light on the high military spending and to raise awareness among the public about this issue.

17 April 2012, SWITZERLAND- Genf

Group for Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA)

The GSoA organized an event in Place Neuve to increase public awareness on the outrageous military spending.

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.

April 2012, SWITZERLAND- Bern

Group for Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA)

The GSoA set up a stand in Bärenplatz in order to draw people’s attention to the high military expenditure.

18 April 2011, SWITZERLAND- Geneva

International Peace Bureau / Swiss-Burmese Association / GSSA

“Here you can see the two famous disarmament symbols in front of the UN: the twisted cannon and the ‘landmines’ chair with its broken leg. What better place for a public statement about disarmament? We [also] made up 160 boxes to symbolize the $1630 billion spent on the military last year – and just 30 to symbolize what is needed to attain the MDGs. All the media and passers-by were very impressed!”

Press clippings available here , here, and here.

Also see Colin Archer’s interview on Leman Bleu TV, which joins coverage of the Geneva event at around 11 minutes in.