Stop making a killing from war: #demilitarize now

WRI statement on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending

On 15 April there were more than 120 actions worldwide as part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, an initiative coordinated by the International Peace Bureau (IPB). The day of action coincided with the annual release of SIPRI's figures on military spending. According to SIPRI, in the last year there was a slight decrease (0.5%) of the world military expenditure. However, China - the second largest spender in 2012 - increased its expenditure by 7.8 per cent ($11.5 billion). Russia - the third largest spender - increased its expenditure by 16 per cent ($12.3 billion). Annual world military spending continues at around $1.5 trillion dollars.

WRI strives against all causes of war, as affirmed in its foundation declaration: “War is a crime against humanity”. The military-industrial complex is as strong as ever - war profiteers continue to make a killing from war. They do this with support from governments who see military strength as the most useful tool for imposing their influence. The stronger your military power, the more influence you have. This means that governments spend millions to arm themselves. The latests figures from the 2013 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) annual report show a slight decrease in military spending of 0.5 percent, but in 2012 worldwide, we still spent $1.75 trillion on weapons to kill each other. It's hard to imagine what this money could do if spent more productively. A graphic produced by WRI member AA-MOC will give you some ideas.

For many years, WRI has been promoting campaigns against war profiteers, through the Global Initiative Against War Profiteers. This work focuses both on the war profiteers, and how relationships between governments and other actors – such as multi-national corporations – are flourishing, serving to strengthen the power of the military-industrial complex. A well-known phenomenon, labelled “the revolving door”, is the movement of personnel between roles as legislators and regulators, and the industries affected by the legislation and regulation - in this case the arms industry. This revolving door produces an extremely close relationship between governments and the military industry, providing the industry with inside information, and substantial lobbying power. To challenge global military spending, it is important to focus on these relationships.

The Global Initiative Against War Profiteers campaigns against all forms of war profiteering. The arms industry is the most notorious form of war profiteering: their business is war. However, there are other ways that corporations make a killing from war and armed conflict. Banks have had a clear role in the economic crisis, and most of the bigger banks invest in the arms trade. Campaigning against banks has become easier as more and more ethical banks are founded: there is no reason not to close your account if your bank invests in war. Other forms of war profiteering include corporations carrying out work that used to be done by the military. One of the clearest examples of this are private military contractors, who we could also just refer to as mercenaries.

There are many other forms of war profiteering, and WRI campaigns against all of them. One, however, is particularly important to WRI. That is, the connection between the resource extraction industry and military conflict. Too often, we witness corporations extracting resources such as oil, gas,minerals and forests, and working hand-in-hand with the military. As well as fuelling conflict, resource-extraction corporations see the potential for sourcing more raw materials in conflict situations. Campaigning against this industry is very important to WRI, and we see more and more local communities taking nonviolent action against it - resisting the industry, whilst at the same time promoting a different vision of development for their communities. WRI says that all these forms of war profiteering contribute to the global increase of military spending.

More than ever our message on military spending cannot ignore the impact of 'austerity' measures in our own societies. The streets of most European capital cities have seen big demonstrations against cuts in social spending. Behind the scenes, however, the arms lobby - the military-industrial complex - operates stealthily and effectively, spreading corruption in the service of their death-dealing industry.

WRI's Global Initiative Against War Profiteers promotes nonviolent campaigns and nonviolent action against war profiteering. Therefore, WRI's strongly supports the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. WRI recognises that nonviolent action can bring attention to particular issues. It can also challenge the war profiteers directly, and show them that we know what they are doing, and that we will not let them carry on their war businesses without resistance. Nonviolent campaigning combines a series of actions, from direct action to lobbying work, and we celebrate the huge number of different actions taking place worldwide and at all levels as part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

War Resisters' International says No to Military Spending! No to War Profiteering! #Demilitarize now!

Javier Gárate
WRI Programme Worker