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Military Expenditures vs. Human Rights: you get what you pay for

September 18, 2014

During the 27th session of the Human Rights Council, WILPF’s Human Rights programme organised a side event addressing the implications of military

Mia Gandenberger presenting the "You get what you pay for" Publication

expenditure for human rights. This was an inspiring discussion for WILPF and created hope for a more peaceful world by using a gender-based analysis within these questions.

During the event, we presented our new publication “You Get What You Pay For”, which examines the relationship between military expenditure and gender equality.

Helen Wilandh from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic international order Alfred de Zayas, Manuela Mesa from WILPF Spain, and Mia Gandenberger from WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will, discussed military expenditure, its effects on international peace and security, and the need to include a gender perspective when making budgetary decisions.

The discussion, chaired by WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees, extracted information form SIPRI’s latest report on global military expenditure and the recent report from the Independent Expert.

The cost of militarisation 

Since the end of the Cold War, militarism has been growing in response to an increasingly unstable world. In 2013, the world’s total military expenditure was estimated to be 1.747 trillion USD, according to SIPRI. While this signals a slight decrease in real terms overall and a small decrease in Western military spending, it also reflects a large rise of the rest of the world’s military spending. Against the background of recent and ongoing crises around the world, there is concern that military spending worldwide will increase further.

Various panellists stressed that by redirecting the resources spent on militaries and military equipment, great progress could be achieved on the advancement of sustainable development and the protection of human rights.

Mia Gandenberger also highlighted that by using gender-aware budgeting, based on the evaluation of rights and needs of both women and men, the allocation and distribution of resources could enhance gender equality and human security.

Lack of transparency in military spending

Due to the lack of transparency and accountability in military spending reporting, there is insufficient data about military expenditure. Many governments withhold information about their spending practices, often on the grounds that secrecy is “necessary” to protect national security. Taxpayers finance the development and deployment of horrendous weapons often without even knowing.

Greater transparency is needed in order for the public to engage in serious discussions on how national budgets are allocated. In this context, Manuela Mesa from WILPF Spain raised serious concerns about budgetary decisions by her government in times of economic recession. Indeed, the Spanish government has entered into long-term defence contracts that can no longer be fulfilled.

The way forward

WILPF encourages the international community to reorient their military industries into peaceful gender-aware economies. Reallocating these resources helps create a context in which weapons and war are not always assumed to be the solution to every problem.

Already at the establishment of WILPF in 1915, militarisation and excessive armament were seen as root causes of conflict. Next year, WILPF will celebrate its 100th anniversary with the aim to build on the movement Women’s Power to Stop War and continue the work to achieve long-term peace.

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