Weapons or Wellbeing

Editors’ Introduction

We end this series of “Updates on Women, Peace and Security” with the announcement of a campaign to reduce arms spending from the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. Their draft concept note “Toward Human Security; Shifting the Focus of National Security from the State to the People” appears in its entirety below. GNWP is an international NGO, world-wide in its scope of action, its office near the headquarters of the UN with which it interacts regularly in the causes of peace and the human rights of women.


Need for a change in national priorities

This week American’s were required to file federal income taxes, the lion’s share of which will go to instruments of militarization. During these same days, in outrage over-policed shooting unarmed civilians, thousands were in the streets calling for the demilitarization and defunding of the police, as a dramatic upsurge of gun violence occurred among the civilian population gratuitously injured and took lives, including those of young children. All this while an upsurge of COVID-19, having devastated communities all over the world, rapidly spread across the country, and cities were once again reeling from lack of personal protective equipment for medical personnel. These circumstances, save perhaps, the random gun violence, are not unique to the United States. War and weapons, armed conflict or no, are financed at the cost of human suffering and death the world over. And the world over the young join their voices to those of women who have for generations pleaded, “For the sake of humanity, end this insanity!” As the pandemic has made painfully clear, we can no longer tolerate this obscene waste poured into the war system. The peoples of the world are demanding that their governments place priority on human security. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders Draft Concept Note on reduction of weapons spending gives a feminist peace activist perspective to that demand.

A proposal for a process of positive change

We could find no more appropriate capstone to this series on Women, Peace and Security than the posting of the GNWP announcement of intent to bring the efforts of their world-wide network to breathing a breath of the sanity into the national security discourse of all nations. Reduction of superfluous arms through a significant cut in weapons spending is a sane and practical step toward national security systems based on achieving and maintaining human security. They provide a cogent argument for shifting excessive “defense” spending to the areas wherein the defenses of human security can actually be built. They fully acknowledge the need to maintain necessary levels of traditional national security as we strive toward an alternative security system such as women have been advocating and working, and which is an underlying purpose of UNSCR 1325. Shifting funds from weapons to the implementation of National and People Plans of Action for its implementation will better serve the goals of a human security system than the most “sophisticated and advanced” of weapons systems.


Toward Human Security; Shifting the Focus of National Security from the State to the People

Concept Note Draft (July 2020)

[icon name=”download” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] [icon name=”file-pdf-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] download a pdf of the draft concept note

States are armed to the teeth and nations have never been less secure. Rifles cannot feed families; bombs cannot assure health care; tanks cannot provide education; weapons testing cannot protect the environment, war games cannot achieve human equality; armed conflict tramples the fundamental rights and human dignity of women.

Annual military spending stood at $1.917 trillion globally in 2019.[1] These numbers represented the largest increase in a decade, and around the world, these costs are only rising. Yet, the Global Peace Index states that global peacefulness has deteriorated for the fourth time in a five year period.[2] Additionally, the Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security’s 2020 report stated that despite significant advances, more than 50 countries fell 10 or more positions on the annual index, which measures women’s inclusion, access to justice and security.[3] The 2020 report also reaffirms that “higher levels of gender inequality in education, financial inclusion, and employment, as well as higher levels of intimate partner violence, are significantly correlated with higher levels of violent conflict.”[4]

It appears counterintuitive for states to spend billions on funding the military and the police when human security is so severely lacking. In the current context of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we can see that social protection is of primary importance to citizens across the world. The recent surge in activism to fight for fundamental rights of equality and justice, such as the #BlackLivesMatter protests in the US and across the world, further illuminates how important this moment in history.

GNWP sees it imperative that states begin to shift their focus away from militarization to ensuring human security for all their nations’ citizens, first and foremost. National security remains essential, and efforts must be made to devise and maintain it with alternatives to the present costly and dysfunctional extreme militarization. As we move toward such an alternative, it can be ensured without the inflated billion-dollar price tag. We call for reducing weapons spending and shifting those funds to ensure human security, suggesting the following as possibilities for ensuring national security while achieving human security with special reference to the human security of women and their full and equal participation in all matters of security and peace.

In the intermediate-term, we aim to:

1) Influence policy outcomes and decisions that divert military funding, specifically weapons spending to the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda. For example, of the 83 current National Action Plans on WPS, only 28 (34%) have any budget allocated for implementation.[5] Funding is a basic and fundamental step to ensuring that the WPS agenda can become a reality, and it must be ensured. The little funding that is made available usually comes from the Ministry of Gender or its local iteration. However, the WPS agenda is clearly a matter of national interest and should instead be funded by the deeper pockets of the Ministry of Defense.

2) Influence policy outcomes and decisions that divert weapons spending to fund COVID-19 response including especially those led by women and youth peacebuilders.

The share of world military expenditure of the 15 countries with the highest spending in 2019. Source: SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, April, 2020.

Learning from the proposal

Read the Concept Note and discuss the rationale and evidence it offers to support a campaign to reduce weapons spending.  Share other evidence you may be aware of to support such a campaign.

National budgets are normative documents that reflect the priorities and values of nations.  This issue was recently taken up by The 2020 Global Days of Action on Military Spending Campaign calling for “Healthcare not Warfare.”  Identify the values that you believe motivated GNWP’s call for the reduction of weapons spending. How would these values be reflected in a national budget? According to these values and ones you might identify as part of a national security policy aimed at achieving and protecting human security what priorities should be given to various national needs and goals? Look up the national budget of your country. Compare the priorities you have set with those of the actual budget. What would you change in the national budget in an effort to better assure human wellbeing as the primary indicator of national security?

UNSCR 1325 Action Plans:  National and Peoples plans as suggested in an earlier post in this series have significant peace potential.  Draft a model action plan for assuring the participation of women in all matters of peace and security, and reducing armed conflict. What are the essential steps? What should be done first? What do you think your government could be persuaded to agree to? What might need to be included in a people’s action plan that civil society could undertake without dependence on government?

Alternatives to weapons dependent security is suggested in the GNWP proposal as something to be invoked in the weapons reduction process?  Look into proposals for alternatives such as those proposed by World BEYOND War. How desirable and practical do you find the proposals? Do you know of or can you think of other proposals to increase the possibilities for alternatives that your government might consider? Research organizations and movements working for demilitarization and disarmament?  Which is one that you might associate with for purposes of learning and working for change toward an achievable and sustainable human security system?

Women, Peace and Security have been the theme of this series intended to produce thinking and learning about the interrelationships between gender equality and peace, and about the many overlooked contributions that women can make to peace. Check into such issues as the comparison of the relative success women heads of state and men heads of state in effective responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Look into the gender make up the civil society leadership that achieved the nuclear weapons ban treaty. What are your own conclusions on the relationship of women’s participation to the achievement of peace?

– BAR, 7/16/20

Notes & References

[1] https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/global-military-expenditure-sees-largest-annual-increase-decade-says-sipri-reaching-1917-billion

[2] http://visionofhumanity.org/indexes/global-peace-index/

[3] https://giwps.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/WPS-Index-2019-20-Report.pdf Page 3

[4] Ibid

[5] https://www.peacewomen.org/e-news/2019-review-wilpf-women-peace-and-security

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