European members from different branches of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation held their annual meeting from April 13-15, 2012 in the Centro Ecumenico Agape in Prali (Italy), on the eve of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.
In our discussions about the futility of war we noted that it is becoming increasingly obvious, not only among pacifists but amongst researchers and civil groups as the Veterans for Peace that war does not achieve its own stated objects. Recent military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya turn out to be complete failures in respect to improving stability, reducing terrorist threats and providing security and better living conditions for the countries‘ populations.
The non-violent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were successful in overthrowing the existing governments and, while initial expectations have not been fully realized, they provide an inspiration for a continuing process of change.
In our understanding of the power of love for transformation of conflict, we include the need for investment and training to build on the changes that were brought about by non violent means during the Arab spring.
We believe that it is only because of the obscene levels of resourcing afforded to the development of the means of destruction of people and complete disregard for the effects on the environment that the real means of resolving conflict and making and building peace are completely under resourced and unknown to many.
We resist the propagation of the idea that violence can only be countered by military actions to overthrow repressive governments. We have seen over and over again that any benefits are limited, temporary and invariably cause death and the destruction of infrastructure at great human and environmental cost.
We particularly regret that the attempts of the Arab League to deploy an observers‘ mission into Syria or the results of hard negotiations by the special observers‘ mission into Syria or the results of hard negotiations by the special
UN representative Kofi Annan are openly discredited leaving the public with the impression that there is no alternative for military force.
At the very least, our governments should reduce military spending and invest seriously in non-military tools to implement the responsibility to protect non-violently. One important example would be to provide full support and grant the right to asylum to conscientious objectors from countries like Egypt, Syria, etc. in which soldiers are forced to fight against their fellow citizens. Additionally, they should stop the practice of providing military support to either resistance or army fighters. Whether in the form of weapons or through trainers and advisors recent developments in Mali show how quickly these weapons find their way into neighboring countries with no effective control.
According to figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which are the most respected numbers on military spending in the world, 1.5 trillion dollars is approximately what was spent globally on the military in 2009. This represents an increase of 49 per cent since 2000. The global financial crisis and economic recession in 2009 had little effect on world military spending. Two-thirds of countries for which data was available increased military spending.
While military expenditure increases every year, investments in conflict resolution, peace building, and development lags far behind.
The alternative models require investment as well as commitment: the UN Charter article 26 goes beyond the mere regulation of the arms trade to the regulation of armaments themselves. It foresees a redirection of military expenditure, implying that the system of regulation will afford security by other means, for example UNSCR 1325.
Based on the SIPRI figures, the present level of military spending is equivalent to 700 years of the UN’s regular budget.
In 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action recommended the reduction of excessive military expenditures, so as to permit the possible allocation of additional funds for social and economic development, in particular for the advancement of women.
On this Global Day of Action on Military Spending we want to remind the world of this recommendation.
The European Branches of IFOR
17 April 2012