Peace Pledge Union says COVID-19 exposes hollowness of defence policy

By agency reporter
April 16, 2020

The UK government has paused an integrated review of defence to focus on tackling Covid 19. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said the decision was a reminder that the government's idea of defence cannot defend us from pandemics and other serious threats.

The PPU urged ministers to stop equating 'defence' with armed force and preparations for war. They said that a realistic defence policy would focus on the biggest threats to human security, including epidemics, pandemics, poverty and climate change.

The Cabinet Office announced on 15 April 2020 that the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy would be postponed until 2021. It had been launched by Boris Johnson in February this year.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Peace Pledge Union has called for military budgets to be diverted to tackling coronavirus and related problems caused by job losses, poverty, mental ill-health and isolation.

UK government security reviews in 2010, 2015 and 2018 all identified a possible pandemic as a major security threat. Despite this, successive governments have continued to maintain the seventh highest military budget in the world.

On Friday 17 April 2020, PPU members and allies will take part in a day of online action, taking to the internet to call for military budgets to be diverted to tackling Covid 19, using #HealthcareNotWarfare, #DivertMilitarySpending and #BombsDontDefendUs.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said: “With no sense of irony, ministers say that they can't focus on defence because they are concentrating on coronavirus. Tackling a pandemic is surely the sort of thing that defence policy should be about. COVID-19 is a deadly reminder that armed force cannot make us safe. People around the world have the same needs and face many of the same threats.

“The government is spending millions on fighter jets but failing to provide NHS staff with sufficient PPE. When the defence review re-starts, it is vital that we do not go back to business as usual. We can no longer allow ministers and militarists to use 'defence' and 'security' as euphemisms for war and armed force.”

The PPU welcomes the work of those armed forces personnel who are delivering medical supplies, building hospitals or otherwise helping to tackle COVID-19.

The UK has the seventh highest military spending in the world, according to calculations by academics at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2018, the UK government's National Security Capability Review listed “diseases and natural hazards” as one of the most likely security threats facing the UK.

* Peace Pledge Union https://www.ppu.org.uk/

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