An increasing number of states are spending enormous amounts on military activities. They continue to foster a culture of militarisation by maintaining, if not increasing, their military budgets with minimum transparency and limited accountability.
In 2014 alone, total global military expenditures reached 1776 billion USD. Containing and dealing with the consequences of violence cost the world 9.8 trillion USD, which accounts for 11.3% of the global GDP. While military expenditures increase almost every year, investment in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and development lags far behind.
We have highlighted this problem many times before. For 100 years WILPF has led a movement that emphasizes the links between military expenditure, the arms trade, violent conflict, and the reduction of available resources for social and economic development and the promotion of gender equality.
A bit about military spending
Military investments are underpinned by a belief that state security can be guaranteed by threats of violence. It’s an investment in war and conflict. And while government’s use the language of security and protection to justify their excessive investment in military hardware and personnel, it is usually civilians that pay the highest price—with their lives, livelihoods, and rights—when states go to war or waste limited resources that could instead be used for social and economic development.
There are many direct and indirect links between military expenditure and the reduction of available resources for development. Governments that spend excessive financial, technological, and human resources on their militaries divert resources from economic, social, and environmental programmes. The military-industrial complex—composed of a state’s armed forces, the government, suppliers of weapons systems and services (corporations), and academic institutions that conduct research on weapon systems and designs—absorbs vast amounts of funding that could otherwise be spent on human security, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, funds reserved for development initiatives are increasingly spent on emergency relief and rehabilitation operations to clean up after violent conflict.
Above all else, weapons are tools of violence and repression by those that use them and tools of financial gain by those who make and sell them. The international arms trade is a booming industry and the international systems that were created to uphold international law and secure human rights have been subordinated to the economic and political interests of governments and corporations. While many states promote themselves as advocates for international peace, justice, and security, and claim to promote international disarmament, the same states are often leaders in the international arms trade, which contributes to fuelling conflicts, human rights violations, and disrupting peace processes.