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A Nobel Peace Laureate Calls for Slashing Military Spending and Investing in Healthcare


By Jutta Wolf

BERLIN (IDN) – The world’s oldest peace NGO, the 1910 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Peace Bureau (IPB), is calling for a “dramatic reduction” of military spending in favour of healthcare and meeting social needs. A petition launched on March 27 and signed by all interested will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly on the first day of the next session opening on September 15, 2020. [2020–04-02]  ITALIAN | JAPANESE | RUSSIAN

“The world spends 1.8 trillion dollars on military expenditure every year and is scheduled to spend 1 trillion dollars on new nuclear weapons in the next 20 years,” notes the IPB in the petition and a statement earlier from its headquarters in Germany’s capital city, Berlin.

Global military exercises cost more than 1 billion dollars each year, and arms production as well as arms exports are on the increase in the world’s leading economies. They are responsible for 82 per cent of global military spending, account for almost all arms exports, and hold 98 per cent of the world’s nuclear bombs on their collective territory.

They comprise the Group of Twenty (G20) which the IPB says is a shared platform that brings together the interests of the main players in the global arms race. In addition, the G20 spend billions on military research, money which, the IPB believes would be better invested in health and human needs and research to help the fight against global climate change.

“The G20 cannot sweep these facts under the carpet,” particularly as military spending is 50 per cent higher today than at the end of the Cold War and NATO is demanding further increases from its members.

In a separate statement on March 30, the IPB criticises the G20 for having “missed an opportunity” to support the clarion call by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on March 23 for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” in support of the bigger battle against the devastating pandemic, and points out that “this failure constitutes ‘the missing link’ from the G20’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The leaders of G20 – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union – convened in Riyadh under the presidency of Saudi Arabia on March 26, 2020 to discuss the global coronavirus outbreak.

The IPB takes note that the G20 statement recognizes that “Global action, solidarity and international cooperation are more than ever necessary to address this pandemic,’” that it is a “powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities” and yet fails to apply this thinking to the need for peace.

Militarization is the wrong path for the world to take; it fuels tensions and raises the potential for war and conflict and aggravates already heightened nuclear tensions, said the statement. “Even so, the policy architecture that was put in place to control nuclear expansion and disarmament is ignored or even weakened.”

The IPB refers in this context to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ 2020 Doomsday Clock which in February 2020 stood at 100 seconds to midnight – the closest it has been to midnight in its 70-year history – and this global pandemic has pushed the second hand even closer.

The International Peace Bureau calls on world leaders to put disarmament and peace in the centre of policy making and develop a new agenda for disarmament that includes the banning of nuclear weapons as envisaged by The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

“Without it, we are handicapping our fight against future health pandemics, to eradicate poverty, hunger, to provide education and healthcare for all, as well as the realization of the SDG 2030 goals,” the IPB argues.

Disarmament is one of the keys to the great transformation of economies, to ensure that human beings and not profit are most valued and economies in which ecological challenges – above all the crisis of climate change – will be dealt with and global social justice will be pursued.

“With disarmament, the implementation of the SDGs, a global social contract, and a new global green peace deal, we can address the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic,” the IPB argues. History is witness to the fact that in such crises, democracy must be defended above all else, and it must be defended against increasingly authoritarian states.

The IPB is calling for “a culture of peace”, .a peaceful path that emphasises the need for a global strategy, a global social contract, and global cooperation to ensure planet-wide support for people.

Highlighting the “healthcare stress”, the IPB points out that as a result of underinvesting in healthcare infrastructure, “health systems are reaching the limits of their strength and heroic front-line staff are under massive pressure”. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the global community is facing a shortage of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030.

The lessons for the future are obvious:

  • Health is a human right for the young and old, for all people in all parts in the world.
  • Healthcare and nursing care must never be slashed or subordinated in the pursuit of profit through privatization.
  • The importance of decent work for all healthcare staff and continued investment in their education and training.

The IPB argues that it is high time for a Global Social Contract. “As each hour passes, the full scale of the crisis becomes clearer.” The International Labour Organization (ILO) expects a potential loss of 25 million jobs, which is more than those lost during the 2008 financial crisis.

Besides, working poverty is expected to increase significantly, where up to 35 million additional people could be impacted. Income losses for workers could reach 3.4 trillion dollars.

This is the reason the IPB backs the efforts of the trade union movement globally, regionally and nationally, for economic measures and resources to protect jobs, incomes, public services, and the welfare of people.

“This requires a commitment from the business community to keep people in work and the support they are promised to receive from their governments must be conditional on their adhering to the social contract for job security and incomes,” maintains the International Peace Bureau. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 April 2020]

Image credit: IPB

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