Military expenditures in 2013: the small fall of the West and the large rise of the rest


Today is the forth Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) promoted by the International Peace Bureau. It coincides with the release of data on world military expenditure from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Major trends in 2013:

- Global military spending in 2013 was roughly estimated in $1.75 trillion, signaling for the second  year running a decrease in real terms.

- The overall reduction registered in Western countries has been mainly driven by the fall of United States’ spending (- $20bn). This as a consequence of the end of the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as of ‘sequestration’ measures to cut the overall US budget. Europe also shows a general decrease spending, which is clearly not coming from a policy decisions but it is rather a result of the austerity measures adopted by states.

- In all the other regions of the world, 2013 continued a trend from previous years: states are continuing to re-arm themselves. The biggest budgets’ increases have been recorded in Asia/Oceania and Middle East, and unsurprisingly the top spenders in each region are countries involved either in regional disputes or struggled by internal tensions or conflicts.

_ Asia/Oceania: The top-5 spenders in Asia/Oceania for 2013 were China (accounting for much of the Asian rise), Japan, India, South Korea and Australia. Another negative development is that Afghanistan, Philippines, Sri-Lanka and Kazakhstan – i.e. countries with ongoing low-intensity conflicts with records of serious human rights violations - are listed as the top increasers from 2012.

_ Middle East: The geopolitical rivalry here seems to play a big role in the military expenditure of regional actors. It is evident the top-5 spenders in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Iran and Oman. Among the big increasers of the region there are Iraq, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Significant increases in military expenditures are seen in countries where there are armed conflicts and serious human rights’ violations: a mere coincidence?

Of course not. Investments in military-related areas can represent a major source of regional instability and internal conflicts.

Links among flows of weapons and lack of development have been largely been exposed. Firstly, an investment in military capabilities often comes at the expense of investments in human needs. Secondly, given the context of human insecurity generated by weapons, the funds that are still designated to development run the risk of being absorbed by the expensive emergency relief and rehabilitation programmes costs that often follows armed conflict situation. .

Human security is seriously under stress in the West too, despite the decreasing trend in military expenditures. In the West austerity measures meant above all cuts to social security programmes rather than cuts to military investments.

US has however gone through some cuts in military budget is still by far and large the biggest spender in military sector. At the same time it is cutting the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – actually providing assistance to 1 in seven Americans - unemployment benefits and other emergency programmes.

While not finding the money for to the Independent Living Fund, the United Kingdom is planning to spend £350,000 an hour on the Trident plan for nuclear weapons. Similarly, in many European countries, cuts in social security programmes have been disproportionate compared to cuts in military spending.

Its time to #movethemoney

In order to support the GDAMS’ message for a shift in governments’ funding priorities, WILPF launched a communication campaign involving our national WILPF sections. It aimed to raise awareness on the enormous resources spent in the military sector. You can read more about this initiative here, and don’t forget to check out our info-graphics on military spending here.

WILPF urges states to stop investing in weapons and start to invest in people’s real needs, such as health care, social welfare, education and gender equality programmes. It is imperative to move the money from the military sector in order to invest in human development. This would represent a true investment in peace and security.