Peace Brigades International and the UN Charter’s call for the least diversion of the world’s resources into armaments

Published by Brent Patterson on

The founding statement of Peace Brigades International from September 1981 says, “We appeal in particular to all those who seek to fulfill the high principles and purposes expressed in the Charter of the United Nations.”

This April, Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, commented, “The United Nations Charter reflects an explicit understanding of the relationship between disarmament and development in its call for the ‘least diversion of the world’s economic and human resources to armaments’.”

Nakamitsu highlights this in the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs occasional paper titled Rethinking Unconstrained Military Spending.

She also cautions in this paper, “Despite this longstanding insight, countries have continued to spend more on their militaries, recently bringing global military expenditure to its highest level since the end of the cold war.”

Nakamitsu further notes, “We must consider alternatives to excessive militarization and seek options that address the real challenges of our time, including climate change, epidemics and pandemics, mass refugee flows and extreme poverty.”

In the chapter titled How unconstrained military spending harms international security, Samuel Perlo-Freeman from the Campaign Against Arms Trade notes, “The world devoted an estimated $1,822 billion to its militaries in 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).”

Perlo-Freeman concludes that chapter with the recommendation that, “All States, especially those with high levels of military spending (in absolute terms or as a share of GDP) should refocus their security priorities and resources towards promoting sustainable human security, most importantly by tackling the climate crisis.”

In Military spending and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute highlights, “A 5–10 per cent cut in military spending would release funds to cover costs of Sustainable Development Goals such as alleviating extreme poverty (Goal 1), improving health-care standards (Goal 3) and tackling climate change (Goal 13).”

In A feminist approach for addressing excessive military spending, Ray Acheson and Madeleine Rees of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom note, “A feminist approach to peace and security is one that defines true human security not by stockpiling weapons or issuing threats, but by dismantling structures of oppression and injustice through negotiation, cooperation and redistribution of resources.”

And in From swords to ploughshares: lessons learned from conversion movements, Miriam Pemberton from the Institute for Policy Studies and William D. Hartung from the Center for International Policy conclude, “Disarmament and conversion must be linked: the world cannot achieve significant disarmament unless it pays attention to the economic underpinnings of militarism that stand in the way.”

They add, “The United Nations has consistently called on Member States to reduce their military expenditures, and has linked those efforts to the urgent need for resources to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to address the climate crisis.”

The full 78-page report can be read here.

Peace Brigades International was founded at the Canadian Friends Service Committee’s Peace Education Centre on Grindstone Island (on unceded Algonquin territory south of Ottawa) with the explicit vision of helping to build a more peaceful world.

Beyond this imperative reflected in our founding statement, our Principles and Mandate statement (first approved in 1992) also encourages “local peace activities” and the methodology of “peace education”.

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