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Disarm to Develop: Hang the Peace Flag on September the 21st
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Disarm to Develop: Hang the Peace Flag on September the 21st

The world spent 1,74 trillion dollar on military and defense in 2011. This sum is unacceptably high and stands in sharp contrast to the worldwide spending on development aid, which is not even a tenth of this amount.

 The world spent 1,74 trillion dollar on military and defense in 2011. This sum is unacceptably high and stands in sharp contrast to the worldwide spending on development aid, which is not even a tenth of this amount. Our planet is currently threatened by multiple economical, social, health and ecological crises, which is why it is essential that we reorientate these resources to meet the real human needs. Disarming is necessary to create space for development.

The Greek crisis has obliged us to face the facts. The past decade this country was a very important arms importer. When Greece had to save 1,8 billion Euro in 2010 on social expenses, military spending in that country totaled 7,1 billion Euro, a significant increase in comparison with 2007 when the military spending of the Greek government amounted to 6,24 billion Euro. France and Germany pressured Greece to comply to its arms contracts with them, despite the precarious financial situation of the country. In 2010, right in the middle of the crisis Athens was buying military equipment for more than 1 billion Euro in both France and Germany.

A first small step towards disarming would be an international Weapons Trade Treaty. Every year there is between 45 and 60 billion dollars worth of arms trade in the world. Tree-quarters of these weapons go to developing countries, often to authoritarian regimes. Even though the European Union has binding criteria for controlling the trade in arms, the member-states have shipped for billions of dollars in weapons to the dictatorial regimes of the Arab world -in 2009, right before the Arab Spring, for 11,6 billion Euro. This summer there were negotiations for weeks within the United Nations to reach a global treaty to regulate the arms trade better. A few major arms exporters such as the United States, Russia and China thwarted the efforts, so an agreement was held off. But this is just the beginning of the battle. A group of 90 countries declared that they committed themselves to continue to work towards a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). A first opportunity arises during the Annual General Assembly of the United Nations this fall. For Vrede vzw such a treaty should have a clear objective: no export of weapons to situations/countries where human rights could potentially be violated, where the international law is not respected or where they hamper the development. The ATT should be comprehensive, this means not only aimed at weapons, but also at munition and other kinds of military equipment. The treaty has to comprise all kinds of transfers: import, export, transit and re-export, including all the intermediaries and end destinations. The treaty has to be workable and enforceable, which means that it must contain clear guidelines for implementation, transparency and accountability. Vrede vzw supports every effort that contributes to disarmament and calls attention to the human toll that is connected to these military expenditures.

To reinforce the demand to disarm, Vrede vzw calls on everybody to hang a peace flag out of windows and balconies on September the 21st, the International Day for Peace. That day Belgian activists will unfold the worlds largest peace flag in the historic center of Ghent.

Spokesperson: Ludo De Brabander - ludo@vrede.be

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