Columnist Prue Hyman says the Budget should cut arms spending — and spend the money instead on climate change mitigation, health and education.
In her monthly column, Prue says: ‘I don’t think in these columns I’ve ever given any accolades to Peace Movement Aotearoa and its coordinator, Edwina Hughes.
They’ve been working hard on important issues for decades and keep us focused on global military spending and what could be done with those resources.
The White Poppies movement
Their Anzac Day message was “honour our war dead by ending war” and they continue to promote peace through their White Poppies promotion, tirelessly promoted on the Kapiti Coast by the late John Murray.
They tell us that world military expenditure in 2017 totalled an estimated $(USD)1,739 billion, the highest level since the end of the cold war.
After 13 consecutive years of increases from 1999 to 2011 and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global expenditure rose by 1.1 per cent in real terms in 2017.
The top five countries in military spending, USA, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India, were responsible for 60% of the expenditure with USA alone contributing one third.
12 days’ worth of arms spending could solve poverty world-wide!
Just twelve days of military expenditure would eradicate extreme poverty everywhere, and just five weeks of military expenditure would ensure that five of the key UN Sustainable Development Goals are met – eradicating extreme poverty, ending hunger, ensuring healthy lives, clean water, sanitation, and quality education for all.
NZ’s record spend
What about little old New Zealand? In last year’s Budget, military spending increased to a record level of more than $3.67 billion or $71 million per week. Think what that could do in social spending.
And an additional $20 billion “investment” was announced in 2016 to be spent over the next 15 years for increased combat capability, new offensive weapons systems, two new warships and new cyber warfare capacity.
Will a Labour led government have the guts to cut into all this?
Sure we should participate in peacekeeping activities around the world, while jobs in the Armed Forces provide trade training with pay and opportunities for less advantaged groups to get ahead.
But a lot of what we do is just to keep up with the big boys.
Let’s be grateful for our isolation as two islands far from anywhere unlikely to be attacked and in any case unable to defend ourselves if we were! Let’s divert a lot of this spending to more socially worthwhile areas.
Joseph Llewellyn and Griffin Leonard, both PhD Candidates at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, wrote a fascinating paper making the case for totally abolishing New Zealand Defence Forces (it can be found at https://www.otago.ac.nz/ncpacs/otago668336.pdf) – for a conference last November on Rethinking Pacifism for Revolution, Security and Politics.
Five reasons given for our arms spending
They listed five primary reasons why it is often assumed that Aotearoa New Zealand needs to retain a military force
- offensive capabilities to attack foreign governments and organisations;
- defensive capabilities to protect Aotearoa New Zealand from physical or cyber attack;
- humanitarian relief efforts,
- peacekeeping operations
- protection of New Zealand’s economic interests.
They showed the inefficiency of maintaining military capacity for these purposes and argued that nonviolent movements have a much higher success rate at toppling oppressive regimes then do violent revolutions or invasions from another power.
They note that the NZDF is often deployed in civil defence emergencies, such as after a flood or earthquake, which are likely to increase with climate change.
However, civil defence responses could be more effective if an institution existed specifically for this purpose, rather than having the resources and labour required into one primarily designed for combat.
If Aotearoa New Zealand demilitarised, the NZDF budget could be redistributed towards building capacity for these responses at much lower cost than its total budget, freeing resources for important social policies.
PMA is getting the word out before this year’s budget — you’re probably too late for a forum on 4 May, 1 to 2pm at St Andrew’s on the Terrace where Edwina and others discussed government spending priorities. But do go to their website to find more detail on the issues.