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Report from WRI's International Conference: "Nonviolent Livelihood Struggles and Global Militarism"

Between the 22 -25 of January 2010, WRI held its international conference in Ahmedabad, India. One of the main topics of the conference was the issue of war profiteering, with a special relation to its impact to the livelihoods of local communities. Here we report on some of the workshops on this topic.

Transnational campaigning against war profiteering – making links with the arms trade movement (ENAAT) and the local communities

Facilitator: Wendela de Vries

Arms trade is a good campaign issue, because it easily appeals to peoples moral compass. You should make a distinction between the officially reasons given for arms trade and the real reasons for arms trade. Defense industries need export because of economy of scale: the more that is sold of a product the lower the production costs. Military production costs are often high because military R&D costs are high. Government support export for strategic reasons; they want a strong arms industry so that in case of war, they will never be short of supply and spare parts. Another reason why governments like military industry is that it is excluded from the WTO and EU Treaties. Governments can use it as an economic tool, to support employment or technical research.

Protests against arms fairs are a good strategy to show the marketing mechanisms behind arms trade. In India there is a protest movement against the DefExpo India fair. DefExpo is supported by the Indian government in the hope to attract foreign capital and know-how for the Indian arms industry. There are also several campaigns against the financing of arms trade, such as des-investment campaigns ('clean banking'). An important tool for the arms industry are export credits, which exporting states offer for deals with countries that are considered politically or economically risky. In case the client cannot pay or does not want to pay, the state takes over the risk of the commercial financier. One third of all European export credits are used to guarantee arms deals.

Estimates are that 40% of global corruption is related to military deals. When an official has to choose between either spending public money on education or on arms, the latter will give him more opportunity to fill his pockets. Arms trade involves big money, only a few people take the decisions and there is little democratic control. Corruption is hard to proof though, unless there is a leak by someone with political or economic interest. India has blacklisted 8 foreign companies for corruption.

Campaigns should pay attention to new trends in war profiteering. One of the biggest growing military markets is Homeland Security. Notably Israel is very actively promoting its experience with this - one company even offers guided tours for potential costumers to checkpoints at the Palestine border. Israel overtook Russia as India's main arms supplier in 2009. For example after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 the Indians asked the Israeli's to secure Mumbai International Airport. Homeland Security technology includes keeping migrants and refugees out, eg by using unmanned systems ('drones') for US-Mexican border control. Another booming business is Private Military Contracting. About half of the troops in Iraq are privately hired (often local) and even a quarter of the CIA personell is from private companies.

Many WRI groups work against arms trade, for example the Germans who campaign against a specific factory (Heckler & Koch, which makes e.g. pistols for most NATO armies as well as for the Indian and Kenyan police force). More exchanges of information on campaigns through the Warprofiteers mailinglist could facilitate campaign cooperation between exporting and importing countries.

Workshop: Military Spending vs Permanent Peace Governance

Workshops facilitator: Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan

Military Expenditures are increasing- in 2008, they increased in EVERY region of the globe. Global growth in military spending has been over 8% for the past two years, compared to global economic growth of around 3%. This is not sustainable.

In South Asia EVERY country has increased its military spending during the past 10 years. SAARC governments spent 30.8 billion on military expenditures in 2008. Compare this to the global budget of the UN last year of 17.6 billion, it is clear that South Asia does not need external develop aid, it needs a change in priorities.

Primary rationales for increased or high military expenditures include the War on Terror paradigm, internal instability in countries, purchase of major weapons for 'prestige' to show that the country is capable of owning the symbols of powerful states, competition over resources. Some purchases are justified for their supposed use in UN military peacekeeping programs. The workshop predicts more military expenditures will be justified to respond to climate change migration/refugees.

Military spending decisions are usually murky, even in the, so called, developed democracies. Such decisions frequently emerge from the military sector without public discussion or review. Secrecy in this process, often defended by 'national security' arguments can cover incompetence and provides the ideal environment for corruption to flourish.

The cost of meeting the Millennium Development Goals was calculated at $121 billion in 2006. (Eradicate Extreme Poverty, Achieve Universal Primary Education, Promote Gender Equality, Reduce Child Mortality, Improved Maternal Health, Combat AIDS, Malaria & other diseases, Ensure Environmental Sustainability, Develop a Global Partnership for Development) Other development goals not covered by the MDGs could include provision of clean and safe energy for everyone (est. 50 billion), the removal of Developing Nation Debt (est. 30 billion);' prevention of Global Soil Erosion (est. 24 billion); costs involved in stabilizing the global population (est. 10 billion); Halting Deforestation (est. 7 billion); relief for all refugees (est. 5 billion); removal of all landmines (est. 2 billion). However, this list is not exhaustive. While some of the figures are necessarily speculative, they provide a good starting reference. Weapons accumulation and economic development both require large-scale human and material resources. But since resources are limited, pursuit of either process tends to be at the expense of the other. There is a growing consensus that, in the long run, the world can either continue to pursue the arms race or achieve and sustain social and economic development for the benefit of all. It cannot do both.

Workshop: Disarmament - small arms and armed rebel groups

Facilitators: Gunvant Govindjee, Subhash Kattel and Boro Kitanoski (this description focus on the presentation from Gunvant Govindjee of the Ceasefire Campaign in South Africa).

Africa is awash with small arms and light weapons --about 100 million. The sources of these arms date back to the Cold War, but they also originate as a result more recent conflicts, unscrupulous arms brokers and even craft production.

The effects on Africa have been devastating. Political instability and armed conflict, impaired economic development, empowering of criminal elements and pirates, refugees and IDPs, and the violation of human rights, especially of women and children, are some of the consequences of the proliferation and use of SALW in Africa.

African countries have begun to address the problem of SALW by taking initiatives at national, regional and continental level, and also by co-operating at international level in such efforts as the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.

However, there are major difficulties in implementing effective measures in dealing with this menace. They include poor governance, a lack of capacity and resources, a lack of political will, hidden stockpiles, poor brokering laws, and poor air, border and coastal control.

Workshop: Mining fuel for war

Facilitators: Felix Padel & Samarendra Das

Mining/metal companies supply the arms companies, and are therefore among the biggest profiteers of war. The main mining companies all have supply agreements with the main arms companies, and the banks investing in both coincide.

In India today, the main minerals are in the main tribal areas, and due to the intensity of exploitation + remoteness, these are also the main areas where Maoist insurgency is on the increase. We have also witnessed how the strong movements that have managed to stall vast aluminium and steel projects in Orissa & neighbouring states have been labelled as Maoist, even though they are not. The sad truth is, a major resource war is being manufactured in east-central India, masking a takeover of tribal lands on a massive scale, for the metals industry that feeds the world's wars.