17 June 2010

Weapons or Wellbeing?

by Allison Pytlak, Religions for Peace

The answer to that question might sound a touch obvious, but for many organizations who follow arms control, disarmament and development issues we know that this is unfortunately not so. In an effort to bridge the dialogue on those subjects as well as the main actors within it, Religions for Peace and UN Millennium Campaign jointly presented a side event called “Weapons or Wellbeing? Advancing MDGs by Cutting Military Spending” on 14 June in the UN Church Centre.

Moderated by Ms. Deepika Singh, Director of Programs at Religions for Peace, the event also included Ms. Christiane Abogdon-Johnson of United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Mr. Sering Falu Njie, Deputy Director, UN Millennium Development Goals Campaign. Both presenters gave thorough examinations of the relationship between military expenditure, conflict, poverty and disarmament. After thus outlining the problem, Mr. Stein Villumstad, Deputy Secretary General at Religions for Peace, put forward a possible solution in the way of ‘shared security’. This framework—in which development, national security and respect for human rights are advanced simultaneously and in good faith—puts human welfare and human security well ahead of the type of safety provided by weapons alone.

This side event was also an opportunity for Religions for Peace to present the text for a new United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that it has drafted, which asks member states to cut military spending at a rate of 1% per annum over ten years, and convert those funds toward achievement of the MDGs. This reflects an important and necessary progression from existing UNGA resolutions on ‘disarmament and development’ that are less specific in their demands. This draft includes a time bound commitment and a defined reduction amount.

This resolution has been advanced by the Religions for Peace Global Youth Network, as part of their Arms Down! Campaign for Shared Security. Mr. Errick Lutambwe Milindi, from the African Interreligious Youth Network, represented the youth during the side event. As he explained, the campaign has already collected over 2 million signatures on a global petition that also asks governments to reduce military expenditure in favour of increased development spending. These signatures will be presented at the United Nations when the campaign ends in October.

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