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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record

Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Posted: Wednesday, 2 May 2012, New York | Author: Office for Disarmament Affairs

An ex-combatant holds up munitions in Attécoubé, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. (Photo credit: UN Photo/Patricia Esteve) Discussion of the nexus between disarmament and development is not new. The issue of balance between military spending and development is embodied in Article 26 of the UN Charter, which calls for the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.  

As part of 140 events in 41 countries worldwide, an event in the framework of the 2nd Global Day of Action on Military Spending, coordinated by the United Nations Office in Geneva, the International Peace Bureau (Geneva) and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, was held in Palais des Nations on 17 April 2012 with support from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs   .  Representatives from permanent missions, NGOs and Geneva-based institutions assembled in the Council Chamber to discuss whether towering military budgets lead us to a safer, more stable world.

Ms. Theresa Hitchens, Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) Preliminary estimates by the World Bank   indicate that the Millennium Development Goals   (MDG) target of cutting by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty was achieved in 2010. In addition, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined in all regions of the world. 

However, there should be no room for complacency. As the World Bank reported in 2011, no low-income, fragile or conflict-affected country has achieved a single MDG. Different types of conflict, crime, systemic violence and the threat of terrorism constitute some of the biggest obstacles for development and a challenge for efforts to promote disarmament. 

In countries and regions affected by protracted violence often fuelled by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, poverty rates are higher, children are twice as likely to be undernourished and three times as likely not to attend primary school.
Right to left: Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev Director-General of UNOG; Ambassador Milenik Alemu Getahun of Ethiopia, current President of the Conference on Disarmament; Mr. Colin Archer, International Peace Bureau (Geneva); Mr. Jarmo Sareva, Director of the ODA Geneva Branch. These numbers put military spending in a new perspective.
In his address at the event in Geneva, the Director-General of UNOG Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, cited the latest United Nations Report on Military Expenditures, according to which 66 Member States spent USD 1.22 trillion in the fiscal year 2010.  “Disarmament should be properly placed in the context of broader efforts aimed at creating conditions conducive to conflict prevention and to long-term development,” he said.  

Ms. Helen Wilandh from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute   (SIPRI), also presented data on military spending at the event. Differing from the UN Report which is based on Member States’ reports, SIPRI’s data comes from “open” sources and in 2011 covered 172 countries for a total expenditure amount of USD 1.738 trillion. 

However, an analysis by both the UN and SIPRI points to a certain slowdown in the growth and even reduction of military spending, particularly in North America and Western and Central Europe.