Posts Tagged ‘inequality’

Justice Deferred is Justice Denied

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, News, News & Updates, Take Action

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Photo Source: Google

On Wednesday the Federal Government of Pakistan temporarily deferred execution of a 14-year old Shafqat Hussain just few hours before he was set to be hanged. In Pakistan the use of torture evidence and execution of juveniles is illegal. Surely the legal system has specific procedures for dealing with juvenile delinquents yet Shafqat Hussain was arrested and tortured to confess to killing of a child.

The only evidence the courts had was his confession he made after nine days of being tortured in a police cell. He was not tried as a juvenile nor was he given access to a lawyer.

Moments like these make me recall the famous quotation; peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice. Justice is a fascinating word. We hope to get justice in an unjust world, made unjust by our power hunger, selfishness and greed. Where is the compassion we are seeking? Why are we seeking it in the first place?

What a shame that it took the weight of civil society and an uproar to push the Minister into deferring the execution just hours before he was due to be taken to the gallows. We seek the judicial system for justice and what if the same system is flawed as an entity? We don’t know how many other juveniles are facing the same fate.

Being a signatory of child rights conventions, Pakistan should take measures to meet standards of juvenile justice. Sarah Coleman, Child Protection Chief, UNICEF

The existing Juvenile Justice Ordinance 2000, consisting of only 15 sections, does not cover many important aspects pertaining to child delinquencies, the ordinance needs to be improved. Barrister Salman Safdar

Shafqat Hussain was kept in solitary confinement, blindfolded and beaten brutally by the police. He was being electrocuted and stubbed lit cigarettes on his arms while being asked to confess to the crime.

 I was tortured so severely and continuously that my mind ‘just stopped’. I have no recollection of the trial. Shafqat Hussain

It is important to note that after a seven-year moratorium, Pakistan has reintroduced the death penalty and has also introduced military courts. It will begin executions where clemency and appeals are no longer an option. Following the 2014 Peshawar school attacks that killed over 100 children, the death penalty was reintroduced last December.  According to Amnesty International since 2012, 24 people have been executed including three whose convictions were unrelated to terrorism.

Is this shameful retreat to the gallows a way to resolve Pakistan’s persistent security and law -and -order problems? Those who argue the shallow logic of an eye for an eye, it is worthy to note that the charges of blasphemy, adultery and apostasy are also punishable by death. It is indeed a moral catastrophe for Pakistan. The death penalty and military courts are not known to be the deterrents of crime, especially the military courts where the judges and prosecutors come from army ranks. This indeed is a controversial addition to the flawed judicial system along with Anti-terrorism Courts.

Two months after Pakistan’s Interior Ministry stayed the execution of Shafqat Hussain and ordered an inquiry into why a juvenile was given a death sentence, Pakistan’s Anti-terrorism Court issues a fresh execution order.

Draconian courts like these operate on the premise that the accused is guilty unless proven innocent. Shafqat Hussain who has spent 11 years on death row was not a militant and had nothing to do with terrorism. He worked as a caretaker of an apartment building during his brief freedom in Karachi.

In an era of injustice, shameful violence and intolerance it is our duty to raise our voices for sanity and compassion.  We can’t call Pakistan just and democratic when it provides assistance to banned armed outfits, violent sectarian groups and puts innocent juveniles on death row.

Sierra Leone: Diamonds Are Not Forever

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

What_price_for_those_diamonds__by_Joe_Leo

Photo Source: Amnesty International

The recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa declared a global health emergency by World Health Organization made me recall the time I spent in Sierra Leone and Liberia few years back. At that time the two countries were in a rebuilding phase from the long civil war which ended in 2002.

A clear incident flashed before me when the catchy names of these countries were shown in the tickers while watching world news. Seeing the resilience of many people I met on my journey was not only inspirational but also unbelievable. Watching all those war amputees, both young and old, telling me that we are no more at war and we hope to see a better future was extraordinary.

I remember I had to buy a tooth brush and my host, Christy, took me to a shop that not only had Swiss cheese but also Belgian chocolates on sale. I was surprised to see a small shop in Sierra Leone having fancy stuff on sale while the rest of the country was in a dilapidated state. Later Christy took me to the place from where she used to buy things. It was an open space with tables and it was shocking to see all the chicken parts on sale and lentils sold in small (the tiniest I have ever seen) pouches. When asked about the shop where she took me earlier, she told me that it was for the UN peacekeepers in the country as people like us cannot afford to buy things from there.

I am always bothered to see the polar extremes in various places that I have been to and also the polar extremes in my country of birth, Pakistan. Yes polar extremes exist everywhere and yes they have become an accepted reality.  I can visualize how things can be in those countries with the deadly outbreak that resulted in approximately 930 deaths in West Africa.

The other day I was reading that a man in Saudi Arabia who contracted the disease during his business trip died in Jeddah. Moreover major airlines like British Airways and Emirates have halted flights to affected countries. Many expatriates are leaving the countries. Blockades have been established in many places, shutting down the affected communities. Also in the news, a Roman Catholic Priest repatriated with one of the nuns is now in a stable condition in Madrid where the sixth floor of the hospital was evacuated for their treatment.

So what about the ones who are left behind in a place where the virus is gnawing at them?  Lacking medical equipment and training to handle the disease many of the doctors have fled the affected areas. The outbreak must be costing the war scarred economy millions of dollars but above all it is killing people, it is costing their lives.  International aid organizations would be ready to help but with the imposition of ban on travel and trade whether many will be helped is still a question.

Stephen Morrison, the director of Global Health Policy Centre while talking to Newsweek said that the containment of the disease is becoming impossible for the governments to handle. The WHO health officials said that the threat is serious but can be controlled blaming the region’s poor public health infrastructure. What if it is not just West Africa? What if an unknown deadly virus erupts somewhere and cannot be controlled?  Many countries around the world have poor public health infrastructure because sadly health is not governments’ number one priority. In this case the developing world becomes an easy prey with little resources to fight. We can spend billions on defense fighting each other but when it comes to defending ourselves from the unknown ailments which are a result of our mal practices in general  for example cancer, we don’t know what to do.

Sierra Leone is apparently at peace today bearing deep scars. It is ranked 180 of 187 on the latest Human Development Index. With a low literacy rate where 20 percent of children die before their fifth birthday, to date thousands of survivors lack medical or psychological treatment. Almost two third of the population lives on less than one dollar a day. Relatively stable countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia yet again face another shock.

I cannot forget the beautiful beaches and hills of Sierra Leone. A country rich is natural resources is fighting yet another battle. If only the resources and wealth of a country are put to good use many of the ills plaguing the country can be dealt with effectively. Changing the game which has been played for years benefiting just a few is the need of the day.

Here I would like to talk a little about the famous blood diamonds.  According to World Diamond Council which represents the commercial diamond trade, blood or conflict diamonds are traded illegally to fund conflict in war-torn regions, particularly in West and Central Africa. Conflict diamonds are defined by United Nations as “…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”

diamond mine near Kenema, SL 2001 Getty images

Diamond mine near Kenema, Sierra Leone

Photo Source: Getty Images

It has been told by the experts that the illegal sale of blood diamonds has produced billions of dollars to fund conflicts and civil wars in various African nations including, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. In response to the greed and genocide, Kimberley Process Certification System was created in 2002 to regulate diamond trade and keep blood diamonds from entering the legitimate market. The Kimberley Process was put into practice by United Nations. Proponents of Kimberley Process claim 99 percent of world diamonds are now legitimate however the critics claim that this program does not prevent diamonds from being easily smuggled. It should be noted here that Africa supplies 60 percent of the world’s diamond supply.

Some people all over the world love to wear diamonds, a stone that has been made valuable at the cost of somebody’s life. We don’t know where these diamonds come from. We don’t want to think about it as long as we get a dazzling stone around our necks or fingers.  Today we have been blinded by our need for more. Today development depends on more production and more consumption. If only we realize how this need for more is causing harm to this planet. We are at war with ourselves and should not blame anyone else for the mess which we face all over the world, a mess that has various shapes and sizes. Our focus is entirely on faster, newer and cheaper that we have actually lost ground on things like safer, healthier and fair. We are motivated to find solutions but those solutions aren’t the most need solving. We are playing the game with one goal and that is the need for more.  In this game of more we need to change our goal and that would be towards betterment, better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on this planet. The laws and rules that define development need to be redefined.

Flashing the stones, glamorizing material goods and manufacturing things which we don’t need at all in this game of more make us forget the worsening health indicators, the growing income inequality and the melting of polar icecaps to name a few. Today water is on sale and maybe in the years to come we will have air for sale too, if we don’t change the game. We have become individuals with insatiable appetites accumulating more and more. 40 percent of Earth’s resources are owned by 1 percent of the population. The combined wealth of three richest individuals in the world exceeds the GDP of the 47 poorest countries. The world contains only 497 multi billionaires while half of its population survives on less than 2 dollars per day. It is time we start thinking of the connected self where we all are inter dependent.

Mass Mutilation Sieera Leone

Mass mutilation Sierra Leone

Photo Source: Google

These glittering diamonds which people like to flaunt are extracted by thousands of men, women and children who are used as slaves in countries like Sierra Leone.  In Sierra Leone a group known as the Revolutionary United Front threatened, killed and mutilated people living and working in diamond villages until they were able to take control of the mines. About 20,000 innocent lives suffered bodily mutilation, 75,000 killed and 2 million fled Sierra Leone according to PBS Online NewsHour. These conflicts combined have displaced millions and resulted in more than 4 million deaths according to National Geographic News.

Now when I think of it, we can survive without diamonds. No?  It can be seen that the lack of political will among member states has made the Kimberley Process ineffective.  According to Amy Barry of Global Witness while talking to CNN, Zimbabwe is a test case for Kimberley Process. She alleged that Robert Mugabe’s regime benefited from the sale of blood diamonds despite it being a member of Kimberley Process. However the conflict trade costing the lives of millions of people is not limited to diamonds. Rebel fighters and army units from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have hijacked the trade in mineral ores used in mobile phones and computer production according to Global Witness. This has subjected the local population to extortion, rape, massacres and forced labor. Later on the conflict minerals are laundered into global supply chain by export houses before it is being transformed into refined metals by large international smelting firms.

Being part of this rouge trade just for the sake of profits or to be more apt money is nothing but inhumane. We should realize the fact that we are not immortals who will be on this planet forever. It is important to realize that we are all connected and a suffering in any part of the world is the suffering of humankind.  Right now we might get away by thinking that it is the people of Palestine who are at stake or child soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo or polar bears in the Arctic but it will not be too late when we will be in the same boat. It is important to change the game which gives us a false economic model based on the need for more. We need to think with reason and say no to things which we don’t need instead of blindly accumulating stuff at the cost of others. The economic model which we need to follow should be sustainable keeping in mind better survival on this planet instead of making more or having more.

It is not an easy task for sure but neither is this impossible. By thinking and adopting a collective and selfless approach we can surely come out of the many self created problems. Let’s change the game by adopting less is better and prevent the downfall of humanity.

 

   

Pobreza a pesar del crecimiento en la Republica Dominicana: la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

For the English version of this post, please click here

A nivel nacional, las señales económicas para la República Dominicana parecen alentadoras. Es un país adinerado en relación a otros en la región y ha disfrutado de un crecimiento rápido; la tasa promedio anual de crecimiento durante los últimos 48 años ha sido un impresionante 5,4%. La economía se ha diversificado, librándose de una dependencia de la agricultura, hoy en día el país es una de las destinaciones turísticas más populares en el Caribe, tiene fuertes vínculos comerciales con los EEUU, se beneficia de los acuerdos comerciales y el PIB aumentó casi un 50% de 2000 a 2011.

Sin embargo, un informe del Banco Mundial dado a conocer a principios de este año subraya las características paradójicas de este crecimiento rápido: a pesar de estos avances, las cifras de pobreza no han disminuido tanto como lo previsto y los niveles de pobreza extrema siguen siendo altos. De hecho, según cifras de 2011, la tasa de pobreza se sitúa en torno al 40,4%, más que el nivel en 2000 de 32%, una tasa debida en parte a un incremento a raíz de la crisis bancaria de 2003-4; aunque el crecimiento se reanudó posteriormente, no se ha reducido en gran medida la pobreza.

Además, el informe del Banco Mundial señala que la sociedad dominicana sufre de mucha desigualdad, sobre todo en las zonas urbanas. El informe describe un país en el que los pobres siguen siendo pobres, atrapados con pocas oportunidades de escaparse. La sociedad dominicana es sumamente inequitativa aún en el contexto de la región latinoamericana, conocida por sus divisiones crudas entre rico y pobre; durante la década, mientras que un promedio de 41% de la población en Latinoamérica y el Caribe avanzó a un grupo de ingreso más alto, la cifra era un mero 2% en la Republica Dominicana. Y esto a pesar de que se juzga que una parte importante de la población definida como pobre tiene los medios de generar un ingreso más alto.

La desigualdad parece ser un tema importante hoy en día; líderes desde Barack Obama hasta el Papa se han pronunciado sobre el asunto y el movimiento 1% ha buscado destacar la locura de una elite rica y no responsable en los países occidentales. Además, los líderes mundiales y los medios empiezan a reconocer la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad. El año pasado, el secretario-general de las Naciones Unidas, Ban Ki-moon dijo que “Si las desigualdades siguen ampliándose, puede que el desarrollo no sea sostenible”, comentando que “la equidad surge como punto central en las discusiones sobre el programa de desarrollo post-2015”.

Es evidente la conexión entre la desigualdad de ingreso y el desarrollo social. Una polarización de rico y pobre que ofrece pocas oportunidades de movilidad económica suscita un círculo vicioso de pobreza. Y los efectos psicológicos de la pobreza deben de aumentarse no solo dada la presencia de una elite rica, sino también, en el caso de la Republica Dominicana, a causa de la llegada constante de extranjeros acaudalados que buscan disfrutar del esplendor turístico de la isla.

Lo que es quizás menos manifiesto, pero no menos importante, es el efecto que surte la desigualdad en el desarrollo sostenible. Un informe de 2013 subrayó las múltiples maneras en las que una sociedad inequitativa contribuye a la degradación ambiental, entre las cuales la posibilidad reducida para la acción colectiva y la capacidad de los ricos de ‘externalizar’ practicas destructivas al medio ambiente a zonas más pobres. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuten la idea de que la competencia, como resultado de la desigualdad, empuja a un nivel de consumo insostenible y aumenta la importancia social del dinero. Aunque se concentran en los países más económicamente ricos, sus conclusiones parecen ser aplicables en cierta medida a todos países y mantienen que una sociedad más desigual es una sociedad más egoísta, menos preocupada por la acción colectiva para el bien común.

Tras la reciente crisis financiera, se han cuestionado las perspectivas hacia el crecimiento económico. Mientras que se ha identificado tradicionalemente al crecimiento como señal de una sociedad floreciente, y se lo ha considerado necesario para el progreso, los comentaristas han comenzado a preguntar si el crecimiento permanente es sostenible. Cuando no va acompañado de un aumento importante en la calidad de vida para la población de un país, habrá que preguntar nuestra obsesión con el crecimiento y considerar si es sano o deseado.

Entonces ¿por qué la Republica es un país con tanta desigualdad? Los juicios de grupos tales como Christian Aid o Social Watch atribuyen la situación a un nivel bajo de gastos públicos sociales y un acceso inadecuado a los servicios básicos, además de un sistema de impuestos ineficaz. El consenso general es que existe una relación importante entre un gasto social reducido y la desigualdad. Así que un gasto publico más alto y dirigido parecería una manera de comenzar a abordar el problema. El informe del Banco Mundial apela también a más acceso al mercado laboral para los pobres y más demanda para su trabajo, además de “política fiscal equitativa, eficaz y sostenible”.

Cualquiera que sea la manera para lograrla, parece esencial una reducción de la brecha entre rico y pobre en la Republica Dominicana, no solo para mejorar la calidad de vida inmediata de su población, sino también para promulgar la sostenibilidad a largo plazo. Y la coyuntura de este país es un indicio de los problemas de desigualdad a escala nacional en otros países y de los desafíos globales representados por la diferencia entre ricos y pobres.  

Fuentes / vínculos para más información

1. Informe del Banco Mundial (2014): Cuando la Prosperidad no es Compartida Los Vínculos Débiles entre el Crecimiento y la Equidad en la República Dominicana

2. Introducción por Christian Aid a la República Dominicana

3. Informe de Christian Aid (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Evaluación de UNICEF (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Informe de Social Watch (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. Artículo del Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. Informe de la ONU sobre el progreso hacia las ODM en la República Dominicana (2013)

8. Artículo del Independent por Toby Quantrill y Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. Resumen del país por el PNUD

11. Reportaje del Centro de Noticias de la ONU (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

Poverty despite growth in the Dominican Republic: the links between equality and sustainability

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

Para la versión española de este artículo, pulse aquí.

At a national level, economic signs for the Dominican Republic seem highly promising. It is a relatively wealthy country compared to others in the region and has enjoyed rapid economic growth; its average annual growth rate for the past 48 years has been an impressive 5.4%. The economy has diversified, escaping a dependence on agriculture, the country is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, it has strong trade links with the US, benefits from Trade Agreements and its GDP rose nearly 50% from 2000 to 2011.  

However, a World Bank report released earlier this year highlights the paradoxical nature of this rapid growth: despite these advances, poverty has not fallen as much as expected and extreme poverty levels remain high. In fact, 2011 figures put poverty levels at around 40.4%, higher than the 2000 level of 32%, due in part to an increase as a result of the 2003-4 banking crisis: although growth resumed healthily following the crisis, poverty has not been greatly reduced.  

Moreover, the World Bank report points out that Dominican society suffers from much inequality, particularly in urban areas. The report paints a picture of a country in which the poor remain poor, trapped in their situation with little chance of escaping. Dominican society is highly unequal even in the context of the Latin American region, well-known for its gaping divisions; whilst over the decade an average of 41% of the overall population in Latin America and the Caribbean moved up to a higher income group, this figure was a mere 2% in the Dominican Republic. And this despite the fact that a significant proportion of the population defined as poor is judged to have the means to generate higher income.  

Inequality seems to be very much a focus topic of current times; leaders from Barack Obama to the Pope have commented on the subject and the 1% movement has aimed to highlight the absurdity of a rich and unaccountable elite in Western countries. Moreover, world leaders and media commentators, are recognising the links between equality and sustainability. Last year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “If inequalities continue to widen, development may not be sustainable”, commenting that “equity is emerging as a central plank in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.”  

The links between income inequality and social development are clear. A polarisation between rich and poor which offers little chance of economic mobility creates a vicious cycle of poverty. And the psychological effects of deprivation must be heightened not only by the presence of a rich elite, but also in the case of the Dominican Republic by the constant influx of wealthy foreigners eager to enjoy the touristic splendours of the island.  

What is perhaps less evident, but no less important, is the effect that such inequality has on sustainable development. A 2013 paper highlighted the multiple ways in which an unequal society contributes to environmental degradation; among these were the reduced capacity for collective action and the ability of the rich to ‘outsource’ environmentally harmful practices to poorer areas. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuss the notion that competition stemming from inequality drives an unsustainable level of consumption and increases the social importance of money. Although focusing on economically rich countries, their conclusions seem to be applicable at least in some measure to all countries around the world and they maintain that a more unequal society is a more selfish society, less concerned with collective action for the common good.  

In the wake of the recent financial crisis, perspectives on economic growth have been questioned. Whilst growth seems to have been traditionally identified as a marker of a flourishing society, and seen as necessary for progress, commentators have begun to question whether permanent growth is really sustainable. Surely when it is unaccompanied by a significant increase in quality of life for a country’s population, we must question our obsession with growth and consider whether it is really healthy or desirable.  

So what makes the Dominican Republic such an apparently unequal country? Assessments from groups such as Christian Aid and Social Watch attribute the situation to low social spending by the government, inadequate access to basic services, as well as an inefficient tax system. There is a general consensus that low social spending and inequality are very much linked. It would thus seem that increased and targeted social spending by the government would go some of the way to challenging the situation. The World Bank report also calls for increased access to labour markets for the poor and more demand for their labour, as well as “equitable, efficient and sustainable fiscal policy”.  

However it is achieved, a reduction of the gap between rich and poor in the Dominican Republic seems essential, not only to improve the more immediate quality of life of its population, but also to promote long-term sustainability. And the issues demonstrated by this country are indicative not only of the problems of inequality on a national scale in other countries, but also of global challenges presented by the gap between rich and poor.

Sources / Links for further information:

1. World Bank Report (2014): When Prosperity is not Shared: The Weak Links between Growth and Equity in the Dominican Republic.

2. Christian Aid’s Introduction to the Dominican Republic

3. Christian Aid Report (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. UNICEF Review (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Social Watch Report (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. The Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. UN report on MDG progress in the Dominican Republic (2013) (in Spanish)

8. Independent article by Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. UNDP Country Summary

11. UN News Centre Report (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

Military Might Dwarfs the World

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, Publications, Regions, Take Action, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events

Recently in Pakistan the budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015 was presented. The budget which begins on  1 July comes in the midst of high inflation, dwindling foreign exchange, never ending power cuts and weak economic growth. Citizens around the country were glued to the television sets hoping to hear some good news but once again they had to face disappointment at the hands of the government’s finance minister presenting the budget in a baroque language which most people couldn’t understand, not everyone living in the country is an economics major. Maybe that was his job as well, not making himself understood.

Special interest groups were peddling for special treatment while the budget priorities were being finalized. The government of billionaires led to the making of few more billionaires but will that be good news for everyone else? What about the rest of 99% of the population? If we continue like this, it will give rise to inequality.

This budget clearly showed inadequate spending on education besides other things. Leaving Pakistan lag behind other countries in education sector it gave priority to the defense sector by increasing 10% in defense spending. The under spending on education, health, energy sector etc has not only created huge disparities in the country but have also made millions suffer in the blistering heat when the temperature rises up to 50C. But why the government representatives care about that because back in the government capital they have unlimited power supply. Moreover whenever struck by a natural calamity or a disease they have their second homes in the rest of the world with the best medical treatment. The only interesting logic I need to decipher is why we the 99% have to pay for their pompous lifestyles. It is our taxes that make them survive and continue to enjoy the glitz and glamour.

51b8a119bc112Men listening to the finance minister presenting the budget in Pakistan

Photo Source : AFP

Without giving any details and by using mumbo jumbo the finance minister did paint a positive picture but anybody not ready to accept the eyewash could picture the reality. With a crippling budget deficit of 8.8 percent, 10 percent increase in defense spending doesn’t make sense to me.  Sidelining the energy crisis, inflation, unemployment, poor health and education, poor economic growth, a whopping billion rupees were allocated for the military.

Corruption, years of mismanagement and under-investment has not only led to a blackout of up to 20 hours a day in the scorching heat but has made these people lose their consciousness, giving in to the to the deity of greed.

In 2013 a report by UNESCO revealed that Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world, the other country in this infamy is Nigeria. On the other hand a comparison of military spending presents Pakistan as a exceptional county. Historically spending 3.13 percent of its GDP on the military makes Pakistan oust Nepal, Kenya and even its immediate neighbours which spend much less on the military. Without any doubt the under spending on education has contributed to raising a society inclined towards illiteracy and fanaticism. Because of decades of neglect in education Pakistan has embraced militancy and extremist ideologies, hence justifying its over spending on the military. Creating the enemies and then fighting them isn’t better than stopping the creation of the elements emerging due to disparity.

So what exactly comprise the military budget? Interestingly there isn’t any agreed definition worldwide. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) military expenditure includes the spending on the armed forces, defense ministries, government agencies engaged in defense projects, paramilitary forces, military research and development, military personnel both in service and retired, military aid etc. Considering the long list of expenditure it makes sense now why so much money is needed on the defense alone. Here the private multinational corporations used for combat are not included. The private corporations sanctioned by the governments don’t want to reveal their sources of funding either. So it is safe to say that the military expenditure has varying definitions according to each country and organization.

Now the question is why do we need to measure the military spending? The information regarding the defense spending is needed by governments, researchers, students, diplomats, non-governmental institutions, international organization like IMF and World Bank, media and the general public for varied purposes. It could be used to analyze government priorities, by comparing spending on the military with other sectors can make us understand the shortcomings of the governments.  It also determines a country’s orientation as militaristic (we need to be cautious in labeling a country as such) or peaceful. There could be various reasons to assess the military expenditure, its impact on economic growth and development as one of the reasons.

The reliability of the data is still questionable. Some countries do make basic military budget available. There are many countries that don’t give any information at all including Somalia, Cuba, Myanmar, Uzbekistan and a few more. The budget presented by the national governments may be subject to a number of problems compromising the international comparability of data. It may also limit a proper understanding due to the economic burden of military on a particular country. While talking about the military expenditure it would be unfair not to incorporate the international arms trade. Governments and corporations cooperate to meet their economic and political agendas with the arms trade.

Foreign and military policies are influenced by the military industrial complex of the powerful countries. Selling arms can help the geopolitical and strategic interests of the governments. Take for example United States, many US weapons are sold to Turkey that have been used against Kurds. This is known as the worst human rights violation and ethnic cleaning since World War II, the US turns a blind eye to the mayhem in Turkey. In return the US managed to set up bases in a key geopolitical location giving access to places in the Middle East.

Similarly in India since 11September, 2001 Kashmir issue, Hindu-Muslim relations and other issues have become volatile. As a result India and Pakistan increased its military spending; the arms dealers are willing to help both the countries. Having obvious political dimensions the government officials from major arms dealing nations are playing a role to see deals through. For the arms dealers this tension between the nuclear equipped nations is nothing but a unique selling opportunity. Making profit to remain in the business is what matters to these dealers.

global-arms-exports

The-countries-that-doubled-military-spending-between-2004-and-2013Photo Source: SIPRI

It is the developing countries that are affected by the consequences of over spending on military expenditure the most is no secret. Warfare and military expenditure have adverse consequences for the development of nations. When talking about sustainable development the arms industries and the need to have weapons is essential to keep in mind. Whom are we fighting and for what? Each other to grab more land and have more power. The military expenditure not only diverts the government for putting resources and money into better use but also reduces the growth rate making it difficult for the governments to reach the millennium development goals. The research departments of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank found out that when a country doubles its military expenditure the growth rate decreases rapidly resulting in the reduction in the level of income. This makes the developing countries more volatile than the global average.

It could be noted however that the military expenditure is influenced by the internal rebellion. When there is unrest in the country or a civil war going on the expenditure will be undoubtedly elevated. It can be noted that the risk of such rebellion is associated with economic causes; a major risk factor would be lack of development. For developing a safe and sustainable society the most effective strategy would be development rather than deterrence. In a just and safe society the disparity graph is low and everyone enjoys the basic amenities like food, clean drinking water, health and education.

To mark the Global day of Action on Military Spending, the United Nations called on all governments to impose cuts in the military expenditure and boost transparency. The independent expert on the promotion of an equitable and democratic national order of UN also asked the governments to increase investments in nutrition, environmental protection, health and other major sustainable development challenges being faced today. Ironic as it might sound the United Nations itself has peacekeeping forces which are fully equipped. When working on the fiscal budget every democracy should involve the civil society and other sectors of society to determine what are the real concerns and priorities of the population. Here the representatives of the military industrial complex and military contractors should not be allowed to hijack the priorities of the population at the cost of their needs.

The populations everywhere are not very keen on governments going to war. It can be seen during the war on Afghanistan and Iraq. Similarly in the context of Pakistan people in both countries love to visit each other and know each other. It is all political propaganda that has been highlighted to create rift between the two nations. The ruling elite taking decisions for the rest of the population only has its own vested interests in mind when designing certain policies. It is time for the world parliamentarians to implement the will of the people to reduce the military expenditures.

The revenue collected from the population as taxes must be directed towards the promotion of social, economic, political, civil and cultural rights for the promotion of sustainable development.

In 2012 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, global military expenditure levels were at an all-time high, reaching a total of $1.75 trillion. This is indeed a disgusting amount in a world where millions f human being our living below poverty line, dying of malnutrition, lacking medical care and dying of pandemics.

In a world where the ruling elite is busy in feeding the guns rather than the population it is important to pursue disarmament negotiations in good faith, shifting budgets away from insane weapons production, war –mongering, private persons surveillance and devote it to address global challenges including humanitarian relief, development of a green economy, prevention of pandemics, environmental protection and climate change mitigation and prevention. Such a shift in governments spending is essential in achieving the UN post- 2015 development agenda.

It is surprising to note that not many governments put this crucial concern forward in the context of global socio-economic crisis. The governments have been seen talking about austerity drive but it is important to highlight that the place to exercise austerity is in wasteful military expenditures not in social protection where the governments concentrate. It is essential for the governments to reduce funds allocated to the military as a potential contributor to social and environmental progress. The governments in the developing world should give this a special consideration being adversely affected by it. As for Pakistan instead of reducing the defense budget it increased it to 10 percent in this year.  It is not just an issue of disarmament; it is an issue of sustainable development.

The arms industry should promote greater transparency and be more responsible and accountable. There should be a proper check and balance to ensure legitimate use of weapons and curb illicit arms trafficking. It might be unlikely even to hope for real world peace at this point but it is truly desired by most people around the world.

It can be seen that the military expenditure in major countries is increasing rapidly. The statistics given by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in the diagrams above clearly states the crux of the matter. There are a number of countries that have doubled the military expenditure from year 2004 to 2013. Among the list there are developing nations that will be affected the most by the decrease in the growth rate due to over spending on the military. The governments with the powerful lobbying of military industries aid military industrial complexes. Hence seeking peace via war is a questionable foreign policy.

10352613_875653115795941_2869231750102319682_nPhoto Source: Google