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Global Military Spending Increase Threatens Humanity And The Planet


In the face of multiple escalating threats to humanity
and life on earth, global military spending increased to its
highest ever recorded level last year according to new
figures released by the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute (SIPRI) today – the Global Day of Action
on Military Spending.

SIPRI has estimated global
military expenditure last year was at least $2,443 billion
(USD, ±$4,150 billion NZD), an increase of 6.8% in real
terms from 2022 and the steepest year-on-year increase since
2009.

On average, this is equivalent to more than $6.6
billion (USD, ±$11.3 billion NZD) squandered every day on
incessant preparations for war.By way of comparison, global
funding for official development and humanitarian assistance
last year was only 9% of the amount of military spending;
and on average more than 13,424 children under the age of
five died every day from mainly preventable causes – lack of
access to adequate food, clean water and basic medicines:
that is one tragically senseless death every 6
seconds.

This is one of the prices paid, the
collateral damage that is seldom talked about, for
maintaining armed forces in a state of combat readiness
around the world.At COP 28 last year, pledges for loss and
damage funding for vulnerable countries most susceptible to
the devastating impacts of climate change amounted to just
two and a half hours of global military spending; while the
total amount pledged so far for the global Green Climate
Fund is equivalent to two days of military
expenditure.

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It is inexcusable that many
states – including New Zealand – continue to prioritise
spending on combat-ready armed forces over human health and
wellbeing, and care for the planet. The opportunity cost of
military spending is multiple opportunities lost. Every
dollar of military expenditure is a dollar taken away from
socially useful spending – a dollar that could be used to
take real action on climate change, to ensure a decent
standard of living for all, and to ensure health and social
welfare systems can function well in national, regional or
global emergencies: it is a dollar that could be used to
save lives, to promote climate justice, flourishing
communities and care for the planet, rather than being spent
on endless preparations for war.

The
multiple threats to humanity and the planet – the rapidly
escalating climate emergency, intensifying extreme weather
events, humanitarian catastrophes, devastating armed
conflicts, environmental disasters, collapsing ecosystems,
loss of biodiversity, species extinction, and increasing
levels of social inequity – are devastating lives and
livelihoods around the world; while highlighting and
exacerbating systemic social, economic and political
inequities, and exposing multiple flaws in government
spending and other priorities, including the folly of
maintaining armed forces in a constant state of combat
readiness when there are so many other more pressing
needs.

It is obvious that none of these threats can be
addressed by increasing military spending and
militarisation, and that all are compounded by the deadly
priorities of those governments that continue to cling to
outdated narrow notions of military security. Armed forces
cannot turn the tide on rising sea levels, and no military
umbrella can provide shelter from cataclysmic storms:
instead, militarisation is exacerbating the climate
emergency and other catastrophes facing humanity.

Now
more than ever, with the future of life on earth at stake,
states must work together collectively to find sustainable
solutions, instead of continuing to pour public money into
wasteful destructive military activity – the ultimate in
unsustainability, with military emissions estimated to be at
least 5.5% of the global total.

The five largest
military spenders in 2023 were the US (37% of the global
total), China (12%), Russia (4.5%), India (3.4%) and Saudi
Arabia (3.1%), which together accounted for 61% of world
military spending. Overall, average military expenditure as
a share of government expenditure in 2023 was 6.9%, and the
global military burden (military spending as a share of
gross domestic product) was 2.3%*.

New
Zealand’s military spending

While New Zealand
does not feature in the SIPRI table ranking the highest
increases in military spending around the world this year,
that is simply because other states increased their spending
by more, not because there has been any reduction in New
Zealand’s military spending.

Despite the urgent need
for action on climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as
the desperate need for increased funding for essential
public services including health, education, housing and
support for persons with disabilities – currently being
slashed to fund tax cuts for the better off – successive New
Zealand governments continue to prioritise military
spending.

In last year’s ‘Building for the
future’ Budget, $6,631,269,000 (NZD) was allocated for
military spending – an average of more than $127.5 million
every week, and a 12.3% increase on actual spending in
2022.

The spectre of an additional $20+ billion (NZD)
to be spent over the next decade on increased combat
capability, warships and military aircraft continues to
threaten the possibility of substantive action on human
health and wellbeing, and climate justice.

Pacific
leaders have repeatedly stated that climate change is the
existential security threat to the region, but New
Zealand’s focus appears to be on more militarisation
rather than climate action. The Pacific is already one of
the most highly militarised regions in the world, although
only four Pacific island nations have armed forces. The
overwhelming majority of militarisation in the Pacific comes
from outside the region – military bases, military live
training exercises, new military alliances such as AUKUS,
and military occupation by the armed forces of Indonesia,
France and the United States, in particular, along with
Australia, Britain, China, Russia and … New Zealand.
Clearly there are better things New Zealand could be doing
in the Pacific based on a dedicated focus on
demilitarisation so that existing threats can be properly
addressed and resourced, rather than fabricating
more.

The ongoing prioritising of military spending –
whether here in Aotearoa or around the world – is a
reflection of the deadly ideology of militarism, a
destructive mindset focused on obsolete concepts of military
security that continue to harm the future of humanity and
the planet, rather than real human security that meets the
needs of all.

It is totally reprehensible that
military spending continues to rise in the midst of the
rapidly worsening climate catastrophe, humanitarian crises,
and ongoing social inequities that are often caused, and
always made worse, by militarisation: a transition from
combat-ready armed forces to civilian agencies to meet the
needs of all peoples and the planet is long
overdue.

The IPCC warned last year that if we want to
have a liveable future, taking the right action now is
needed for the transformational change essential for a
sustainable, equitable world – clearly it is time to invest
in the future for peoples and planet, and budget for peace,
not war. Unless there is an immediate and meaningful change
in the priorities of New Zealand and other states,
militarism will cost us the earth.

Resources and
references:

*‘Global
military spending surges amid war, rising tensions and
insecurity’, SIPRI, 22 April 2024, and ‘Trends in world
military expenditure 2023’, SIPRI Fact Sheet, April 2024,
both are available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/gdams.htm

‘International
aid rises in 2023 with increased support to Ukraine and
humanitarian needs’, OECD, 11 April 2024 / ‘Levels and
trends in child mortality: 2023 Report’, UN Inter-agency
Group for Child Mortality Estimation, 12 March 2024[3]
‘The Loss and Damage Fund and Pledges at COP 28’,
Julie-Anne Richards and Tariq Jowahir, 11 December 2023 /
‘Green Climate Fund reaches record funding level’, Green
Climate Fund, 3 December 2024[4] ‘Budget 2023: Building
for tomorrow? NZ military spending increases by 12.2%’,
Peace Movement Aotearoa, 18 May 2023, https://www.facebook.com/PeaceMovementAotearoa/posts/6186729694707681

As
outlined, for example, in ‘Budget 2023: Building for
tomorrow?’, note above.

See, for example, ‘Urgent
climate action can secure a liveable future for all’,
IPCC, 20 March 2023, https://www.ipcc.ch/2023/03/20/press-release-ar6-synthesis-report

© Scoop Media

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