White Paper - "Eliminating World Poverty: Assuring our Common Future"
Jim McCluskey, member of the National Co-ordinating Committee of the ministry for peace.
This submission addresses the relationship between poverty and war. This close relationship was expressed by Martin Luther King as follows:
"There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor - both black and white - through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
The same considerations apply to the current 'adventures'.
Thus in order to reduce poverty in the world it is recommended that the UK government puts an end to its invasion of sovereign states, withdraws its combat troops from Afghanistan as well as Iraq, and encourages its American ally to end its war in Pakistan. It is further recommended that the UK government abjures the use of violence as a way of attempting to solve conflict situations.
The direct correlation between wars and poverty has many manifestations. Millions of people round the world are displaced from their homes and lands and living in extreme poverty as a result of wars. Other ways of resolving disputes need to be found if we are serious in our fight against poverty.
Wars lay waste the land, agriculture is abandoned and poverty (even mass starvation) is the outcome. Hungry people are particularly susceptible to disease, and epidemics are commonly the result of wars so that death from starvation and illness may well outstrip those from weapons. It is also noteworthy that in modern wars it is the poor civilians who suffer the most deaths. In the Iraq war deaths among the combatants is measured in the thousands - among civilians it is measured in the hundreds of thousands.
Reducing poverty also reduces the number of wars. As the `Human Security Report informs us '.....poor countries experience the most wars'.
Most of the vast amounts of taxpayer's money that the British government is spending on wars and weapons could be spent alleviating poverty at home and abroad. To indicate the scale of this profligacy, apart from the 76 billion pound Trident renewal programme referred to later, a few figures for existing and planned UK expenditure are listed below:
|'Defense' 2009||£37.4 billion|
|AWE Aldermaston||£ 3 billion+|
|New War Academy at St Athan||£11 billion|
|2 New aircraft carriers (on hold)||£ 3.9 billion|
|Eurofighter Jet Combat Aircraft||£20 billion|
As well as drastically reducing its own military expenditure the UK government is urged to take a lead in persuading the rich countries of the world to reduce their 'defence' spending. Global military expenditure in one year is around $1.204 trillion ($1 204 000 000 000) or $103,340 per second (for a hundred thousand dollars we could, for example, provide 3000 families with clean water for a year).
The magnitude of global military spending is largely the result of unnecessary competition and distrust between nations. If the same effort and expenditure that is dissipated in military matters were used in the diplomatic service and the promotion of mutual understanding we would have much greater ease in meeting the Millennium Development goals, the first of which is to reduce world poverty.
Poverty is concomitant with lack of work. It is perhaps for this reason that the argument is put forward in some quarters that Trident renewal can be justified because it will create jobs. However on examination, in terms of value for money, this proposal is seen to be suggesting a misuse of taxpayers money of unprecedented and astronomical proportions.
The government estimate of the employment generated by the previous Trident programme (which cost in the region of 4.7 billion pounds) is 25,000 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs giving a peak figure of 45,000 in 1980 which had already reduced to 32,000 by 1984. For a new Trident programme it is estimated conservatively that employment would be reduced by 35-40% due to various factors including substantial rationalisation in order to cut costs4. Using a 35% figure this would give a peak employment total of 29,250. This means that (since people want jobs to provide an income), the government could give the prospective employees two million pounds each, tell them to go home, and the exchequer would still be over 17 billion pounds in pocket. Another alternative to constructing the most destructive killing machines in mankind's history would be to use the money to create essential and life-enhancing jobs in, for example, sustainable energy technology or agriculture.
Trident renewal will contribute to poverty worldwide because, instead of raising living standards and lowering the numbers of the poor, other governments will be encouraged to waste their wealth on developing a nuclear weapons industry ('if 'deterrence' is good for nuclear states it must be good for us').
Arms dealers are the midwives of wars. Without the arms manufacturers and distributors modern wars would not be possible.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense."
-- Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953.
Steven Katsineris writes:
There is a clear link between poverty and inequality, and a world that spends huge amounts of money on military equipment preparing for war and uses warfare to resolve conflict. Money that should be invested in education, health and social development is diverted to military purposes. According to the United Nations, 25 countries studied spend more on weapons than on education; 15 countries spend more on the military than on education and health combined.And
In the end it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most, the main victims of the arms trade are civilians........The vast majority of civilians killed were from the poorest countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia. Between 1982 and 1992, 1.5 million children were killed in armed conflicts. A further 4.5 million survived, but were left disabled. Refugees are another part of the enormous toll exacted by such conflicts. Between 1985 and 1996, more than 46 million people became refugees, or were displaced within their own country as a result of warfare.........Total global military expenditure and trade in arms is..... some 14 times more than it is estimated is needed to eradicate poverty from the world. [emphasis added]
Britain is one of the front runners among the states manufacturing and trading arms.
The British government actively subsidises and gives major assistance to the arms industry.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is a government department charged with helping British companies sell their products abroad. In 2008 it created the 'Defence and Security Organization' to promote the export of arms; civil servants helping arms companies to disperse their wares (The previous UK government unit specialising in promoting arms on behalf of the arms industry, Defense Export Services Organisation, DESO, was closed down due to the public outcry against it, whereupon 240 of the 450 staff were moved to UKTI and given the same brief, with the remainder staying with the MOD).
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade writes:
'Since April 2008, UKTI has been using tax-payers' money to proliferate arms - with little regard for the devastating global consequences of its activities. UKTI helps arms companies sell to countries involved in conflict; in modern warfare, the casualties are overwhelmingly civilian. In 2007, the UK sold arms to 11 of the 13 countries identified as being locations with at least one armed conflict. UKTI also helps arms companies export to repressive regimes, including to countries classified as 'major countries of concern' in the government's own human rights report. We're calling for an end to government support for this deadly work.
The current political issue of transparency is very pertinent here.
'The arms industry is one of the world's most secretive and corrupt sectors - making arms a dangerous investment in every way. UKTI supports companies such as BAE systems: in 2008 seven of its deals were the subject of corruption investigations.' 
The British people have never been asked if they want that part of their earnings that they entrust to the treasury used to benefit the manufacturers of arms. However it can be stated with some confidence that if they were asked they would not approve of their elected representatives complying with the wishes of the very rich arms manufacturing lobby and subsidising their sales of arms round the world. Yet this is what is happening to an astonishing extent. The plea, sometimes made, that the arms industry 'creates jobs' is absurd on many counts including the fact that it accounts for a mere 1.5% of British exports. Of course, poverty in the UK can be reduced by the creation of jobs. However it is surely self-evident that jobs created in the UK should not be ones that result in death and increased poverty elsewhere.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade has estimated that in 2004 the government subsidy to arms exports was around £900 million.
Whereas the British citizen supplies premises for, and pays the salaries of, hundreds of employees in UKTI whose only purpose is to sell arms overseas on behalf of British arms manufacturers, no other product manufacturers benefits from such magnanimity. In fact UKTI now devotes as many staff to the arms trade as to all other export industries put together. This is a testament to the power of the arms trade lobby over our parliament and civil service. This abuse should be stopped. The money saved would be of great use in, for example, relieving child poverty in the UK.
Reducing the number of wars in the world will reduce the amount of poverty. The major wars being waged at present in the Middle East are being fought on the basis of decisions by power elites; not the people. If the people had been listened to the Iraq war would not have happened.
The present political upheaval has exposed the grave deficiencies of the UK democratic system. If our democracy is made more transparent and power is returned to the citizens Britain will no longer be a nation that uses war as a way of trying to resolve conflict situations. It is the citizens (and usually the poorer ones) who die in the wars not those who, at present, make the belligerent chooses.
Having made the points above, it is recognised that, as the Human Security Report 2005 states, world trends in global violence declined in the period 1990s to 2003. It is acknowledged that branches of the UK government, including DFID and the Conflict Prevention Pools, play an important part in global violence reduction. The work being undertaken by the UK government in violent conflict prevention, mitigation, post-conflict peace building and avoidance of violent outcomes in disputes is of great value.
A few of the many other areas of endeavour through which the UK government can assist in relieving world poverty are noted here:
Work to ensure that international organisations including the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund act in the interests of the poorer countries rather than of the rich.
Work to ensure that 'free trade' regimes operate in the interests of poorer countries.
Work for the reform of the United Nations to ensure that its actions are representative of the views of its 192 states rather than the 'big five' and for the abolition of the veto.
Work to ensure that the 'Responsibility to Protect' is legally, ethically and appropriately enacted through the United Nations.
20 May 2009
[With acknowledgements to Jesper Tverskov for the footnote style. Ed. ]