Newly published figures reveal that the UK has the sixth highest military budget in the world, despite the coalition government's emphasis on cutting public spending to reduce the deficit.
An alliance of faith groups and NGOs in the UK chose today (14 April) to call for military money to be diverted to human needs such as energy, housing, healthcare and education. People are making similar calls in countries around the world as part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20398)
The UK government's military spending came to £35 billion in the last year. Ministers plan to increase this to £38 billion in 2014-15.
“At the same time as our public services are facing drastic cuts, the government is continuing to spend more than almost every other country in the world on weapons and war,” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
Military spending worldwide is estimated at $1.75 trillion. The figures have been published by academic researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Campaigners have pointed out that this would represent an equivalent of almost £150 per person and almost 30 times the amount that would be required to meet the Millennium Development goals.
Christian groups such as Pax Christi, the Student Christian Movement, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Quaker Peace & Social Witness are among 42 organisations in the UK to have signed a statement calling for “military spending to be shifted towards social and environmental needs”.
They insist that there must be no renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, thought to cost up to £100 billion to replace. They want to see the British government's subsidies for the arms industry – estimated at around £700m per year – to be redirected towards renewable energy and energy-saving measures.
The groups' “call to action” also emphasises the importance of “new thinking” that will lead to “a clear programme of action for spending, research and investment to build sustainable, common security at national and international levels”.
Although the UK's military budget is the sixth highest in the world, the country includes less than one per cent of the world's population.
Andrew Smith added, “For too long we have been hearing the myth that high military spending is essential for building peace, creating jobs and combating terrorism. It's a myth that is promoted by governments and the multinational arms companies that benefit from the global arms trade politically and economically.”
Protests and other actions are planned today in places including Bradford, Bristol, Reading, Oxford, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newbiggen-by-Sea and London. Action will range from information stalls to street theatre and visits to government departments that could benefit from redistribution.
For more on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, see http://www.demilitarize.org. For more on the actions planned within the UK, see http://www.demilitarize.org.uk.