Thursday, 13 November 2008

World Military Expenditure for 2007 was US $ 1,339 Billion!

I attended a presentation of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2008 yearbook at the London School of Economics (LSE) on 4 November. The main speakers were Dr Bates Gill and Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman from SIPRI and, the respondent was Lord Malloch-Brown. It was chaired by Professor Mary Kaldor.

SIPRI is a well-known think tank that researches issues such as security and conflict, peacekeeping, arms trade, military expenditure, arms control and non proliferation. The interesting thing is that the Institute was founded in 1966 to commemorate 150 years of unbroken peace in Sweden.

The core topics covered in the 2008 SIPRI yearbook are:

- armed conflict and peace operations
- military spending and arms production
- international arms transfers
- nuclear arms control, nuclear forces
- biological and chemical weapons and materials

Special topics include i) gender and post conflict security sector reform ii) US ballistic missile defense programmes iii) nuclear forensics analysis iv) global health.

The key findings for 2007 were not very encouraging in terms of the world becoming a safer place (despite American endeavours to make it safer). There were 14 major armed conflicts active in 13 locations in 2007 (although no inter-state conflicts). However, major armed conflicts account for only half of state-based conflicts and one-quarter of all armed conflicts, including non-state based contacts between on-state actors. Hence, the 'fragmentation of violence' continues. There were 61 peace keeping operations in 2007 with an all-time high of over 169,000 peace keeping personnel deployed on ground (69,000 in Africa and 46,000 in Asia).

The picture gets even worse when looking at how much money states have to spend on guns: world military expenditure was US $ 1,339 billion. This represents 2.5% of world GDP, US $ 202 per person. This is a 6% increase in real terms from 2006 and a 28% increase since 2002. American military expenditure was US $ 578 billion which is a almost half of the world's total! The other top spenders are the UK, China, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Italy and, India.

The biggest increases have been in armoured vehicles, electronics and communication (network centric warfare) and military services. There is increasing outsourcing to private security companies.

The presenter from SIPRI then focused on activities in world hot spots:

Afghanistan: There are more arms transfers than before. The Afghan Army is now being supplied by Americans instead of East Europeans as before. And, the Taliban continue to be supplied most probably from Pakistan's FATA region.

Sudan: Non-state actors are stealing from the Sudanese Army or from neighbouring countries. The Janjaweed are still being directly supplied by the Sudanese Army which itself still deploys Chinese and Russian arms.

South Caucasus: There has been a rapid decrease in military expenditure since 2003. In Georgia, military expenditure increased ten-fold! Arms transfers - very transparent - were from Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

The representatives from SIPRI, highlighted the overall difficulty in obtaining the data on arms transfers and government military expenditures, e.g. China and North Korea.

Lord Malloch Brown's (he was UNDP's big boss man not too long ago) response was highly diplomatic and may I say, quite dull. He praised SIPRI's excellent work and lamented how gone were the days when nuclear-armed tensions set the agenda and kept things simple. Now, with the end of the Cold War and, with the 'fragmentation of violence,' things had become too 'complicated.' North Korea was a rogue state. Iran had psychological insecurities. And, the United Nations peacekeeping capabilities were not yet as robust as should be.

Professor Mary Kaldor's comments were much more insightful and interesting to listen to. She initially made a mistake of introducting the SIPRI Director as Bill Gates instead of Bates Gill. That was very funny.

All in all, the lecture was interesting and, a great opportunity to hear the Director of SIPRI himself presenting the main contents of the latest yearbook. A lof of my course reading includes various articles published by SIPRI.

I was a bit bored by the presentation itself as it was just a straightforward presentation of hard data and analysis. I suppose, though, that that is how most people would react to 'boring data' even though it strongly speaks for itself. SIPRI did not need to make any damning statements towards any state or defense company. It is more than clear as to which states are spending the most on arms, it is clear where the arms transfers are being made and, where the main conflicts are raging.

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