For a Safer World, Put People Before Uncontrollable Military Spending
For all of us, but especially for women, the pandemic reminds us that the traditional notions of “security” that fuel the arms industry cannot protect us from the dangers and challenges we regularly face.
Before the pandemic, women were already overrepresented in vulnerable economic sectors and carried the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work. When Covid-19 struck, women who make up 70% of the global health workforce found themselves on the front lines of the response – even as countless other women lost their livelihoods and have assumed greater domestic burdens.
The pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty. Rates of intimate partner violence – primarily perpetrated by men against women – have skyrocketed, in a horrific “shadow pandemic” of all forms of violence against women and girls. Millions of women now face increased risks of female genital mutilation, early marriage or preventable maternal death.
In short, the virus has revealed that gender divisions not only persist but deepen, threatening decades of progress, especially if women continue to be excluded from shaping the pandemic response.
Recovering from the pandemic must mean strengthening women’s socio-economic security, including through greater investments in health, education and social protection systems that advance gender equality.
But the security and well-being of ordinary people has historically taken precedence over a narrower and militarized idea of ”security,” an idea that still leads policymakers to spend huge sums of money building arsenals of security. overflowing weapons. The UN Secretary-General called for a global ceasefire at the start of the pandemic, but most parties to the conflict continued to fight and the international arms trade remained as active as in almost anything moment since the cold war.
Yet all these weapons have not brought us closer to peace. They have only sowed mistrust, eroded relations between countries and increased global tensions.
Moving forward will require a broader vision of security – one that reduces reliance on military armaments, takes into account our common humanity, and recognizes the empowerment of women as a key driver of peace and sustainable development.
These ideas are not new. For example, the UN has made the reduction of military budgets a fundamental objective since its inception.
Nonetheless, attention to the problem has waned in recent decades. Inflated military budgets dominated the world for much of the Cold War. But in the years that followed, relatively few expressed concern as military spending more than doubled. Military spending in 2020 reached $ 1.981, which translates to about $ 252 per person in one year. In comparison, only $ 115.95 per person was spent on bilateral aid on average in 2018, of which a paltry 0.2% went directly to women’s rights organizations – a percentage that has not changed for a long time. decade.
The pandemic has offered us a rare chance to ‘reset’ our approach to security in a way that also advances gender equality. As two UN leaders working for disarmament and gender equality, we believe three things must happen.
First, we must refuse to avoid difficult questions. Whose security is protected by the modernization or expansion of weapons, such as nuclear bombs, which would result in human catastrophe, with a disproportionate impact on women and girls, if used? To end our global dependence on arms, policymakers must take a more human-centered approach to security, recognizing how countries have pursued disarmament for centuries as a way to protect themselves, to watch over each other. on others and to prevent unnecessary human suffering. It will require political will and a revitalization of diplomacy rather than investments in huge armies.
Second, voices calling for an end to rampant militarization must be taken seriously. Many women’s organizations have been pushing back military spending out of control for over a century, while
Feminist movements have played a key role in critically examining whether our governments’ investments in strengthening security have actually had the opposite effect. They are part of a dynamic of multigenerational and multisectoral change. We need to hear these messages loud and clear and create the conditions to include them in policy making.
Third, we need the action of our elected officials to stop spending so much money on weapons. Rather, if our leaders prioritize investments in social protections, such as equal access to quality health care and education for all, they can bring us closer to achieving global goals, including gender equality. These investments should be seen for what they are: down payments to make our societies more resilient, equal and secure.
From April 10 to May 17, we will be celebrating the 10th edition of the Global Days of Action on Military Expenditure. To seize this moment, our governments must take a stand by sharing concrete commitments to begin redirecting resources towards a more peaceful and secure future that works for all. It is not a utopian ideal, but an achievable necessity.
THE JAKARATA POST / ASIA NEWS NETWORK