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What Would $1.6 Trillion Dollars in Military Spending Buy? - Global Day of Action on Military Spending

United Nations, Mar 10, 2011 (IPS) - World governments have spent an estimated $1.6 trillion dollars in 2010 on military operations, weapons, research and military aid, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). What would you do with this amount of money? By asking this thought-provoking question NGOs seek to strengthen the discussion about alternative ways for shifting and reallocating military spending in the run-up to the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) on April 12.

"One year of military spending at current levels", said Ray Acheson, Project Director of Reaching Critical Will, "is the equivalent of 700 years of the United Nations’ regular budget". Or, as she underscores at a meeting of religious and disarmament organizations in New York this week, it could be invested to finance the new UN Women's agency for 2,928 years. It is also enough to pay 24 years of the additional foreign aid which is needed to reach the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

These figures prove an upward trend seen since 2000 of 49 percent increase of military expenditures worldwide: a development hardly touched by the economic crisis of the recent years. "Two thirds of the countries, for which data was available through SIPRI, actually increased their military spending during the economic crisis", remarks Acheson.

The belief that weapons enhance security is misleading, as Hiro Sakarai from Soka Gokkai International pointed out, "in fact they [weapons] increase a sense of fear and threat and invite more tension and trouble which then promotes the circle of violence".

Efforts in the field of disarmament and security must be centered on the idea of human security which looks, apart from physical integrity, at areas like health, food security, education, economic rights.

Looking in direction to the Islamic community and its experiences, Ibrahim Ramey, of the Temple of Understanding and Muslim American Society, observed that in the Islam "a platform for this kind of conversation around global demilitarisation has not yet reached a kind of critical mass, is not yet really solidified itself". Militarisation is also a problem in Muslim countries, as shown by the Global Militarization Index (GMI), published by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), which lists several states from the Middle East and North Africa as highly militarised.

Ramey sees a need for a globalised movement that challenges military spending and seeks alternative way to use it. "A movement that raises the level of leadership of women to the forefront". In order to seek more visibility and to mobilise people around the world, civil society organizations have allied and are organising the Global Day of Action on Military Spending on April 12. (END)

First published in Terra Viva/InterPress Service
For more information on the Global Day of Action: http://www.demilitarize.org/