Militarism as a waste and misuse of resources and as a contribution to greenhouse gas emissions Print
Justice News
Written by Joan Russow
Friday, 19 June 2015 15:04


By Joan Russow PhD - Global Compliance Research Project






Throughout the years, through international agreements, member states of the United Nations have recognized that the military budget has been a waste and misuse of resources. Currently the Global Community is now spending 1.7 trillion per year on the military budget at a time when many basic needs and fundamental rights have not been met or fulfilled. Not only has militarism been a waste and misuse of resources, but also militarism is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions




Through international agreements, member states of the United Nations have undertaken to address militarism;

In 1976 at Habitat 1, member states of the United Nations affirmed the following in relation to the military budget: "The waste and misuse of resources in war and armaments should be prevented. All countries should make a firm commitment to promote general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, in particular in the field of nuclear disarmament. Part of the resources thus released should be utilized so as to achieve a better quality of life for humanity and particularly the peoples of developing countries" (II, 12 Habitat 1).

In 1981, in the General Assembly resolution entitled Resolution on the reduction of the military budget, the member states

(i) reaffirmed "the urgent need to reduce the military budget, and agreed to freeze and reduce the military budget";

(ii) recognised that "the military budget constitutes a heavy burden for the economies of all nations, and has extremely harmful consequences on international peace and security";

(iii) reiterated the appeal "to all States, in particular the most heavily armed States, pending the conclusion of agreements on the reduction of military expenditures, to exercise self-restraint in their military expenditures with a view to reallocating the funds thus saved to economic and social development, particularly for the benefit of developing countries" (Resolution on the Reduction of Military budgets, 1981).

These appeals were further reinforced in a 1983 General Assembly Resolution on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development, that “curbing the arms build-up would make it possible to release additional resources for use in economic and social development, particularly for the benefit of the developing countries."

In the 1984 General Assembly Resolution entitled the Right of Peoples to Peace, there were "Appeals to all States and international organizations to do their utmost to assist in implementing the right of peoples to peace through the adoption of ...measures at both the national and the international level." (4. Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace approved by General Assembly resolution 39/11 of 12 November 1984)

In1992, all member states recognized that "Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development" (Rio Declarations. Principle 24, UNCED, 1992), and in Chapter 33, of Agenda 21, member states of the i Nations made a commitment to the "the reallocation of resources presently committed to military purposes" (33.18e)

In 1994, in adopting the statement from the International Conference on Population and Development, the member states of the United Nations concurred that  “the attainment of quantitative and qualitative goals of the present Programme of Action clearly require additional resources, some of which could become available from a reordering of priorities at the individual, national and international levels. However, none of the actions required nor all of them combined are expensive in the context of either current global development or military expenditures." (Article 1.19)

In 1995, similarly, states in adopting the statement from the Social Development Summit endorsed the calling for the reallocation of military spending to ensure a greater pocket of resources to expand public services.

 Again, in 1995, member states of the United Nations reconfirmed these commitments by adopting the Platform of Action at the UN conference on Women, Equality, Development and Peace. In the Platform of Action, States have made a commitment to maintain peace and security at the global, regional and local levels, together with the prevention of policies of aggression ... and the resolution of armed conflict” (Art. 14) and to reduce "...military expenditures" (Art. 15), states have also made a commitment to the ”prevention and resolution of conflicts? “(Art.15) and to “increase and hasten, ... the conversion of military resources and related industries to development and peaceful purposes" (145a).

Unfortunately, institutional memory is either short or member states ignore precedents.




Laws have to be in place to compel the global community to end years of procrastination and finally discharge their obligations and fulfill their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve carbon sinks.

In 1988, scientists, politicians and members of non-government organizations (NGOs) met at the Changing Atmosphere conference in Toronto to address the issue of climate change and concurred that:

“The stabilizing of the atmospheric concentrations of co2 is an imperative goal. It is currently estimated to require reductions of more than 50% from present [1988] emission levels. Energy research and development budgets must be massively directed to energy options which would eliminate or greatly reduce co2 emissions and to studies undertaken to further refine the target reductions."

and warned that ""humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war. …and that it is imperative to act now".

Largely coerced into inaction by industry, industry front groups, industry funded academics and industry controlled states, governments have failed to address the urgency of the crisis through their reluctance to enact effective legislation.

If citizens are willing to do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, member states of the United nations must stop subsidizing the fossil fuel and military industries, must redirect military expenses;  must discontinue the promotion of nuclear energy – the most hazardous and expensive form of energy known- as the solution to climate change.

 Corporations and policymakers are talking openly about nuclear energy as the solution to climate change. In 1991, in Canada, a parliamentary committee issued a report; “Out of Balance: the Risks of Irreversible Climate Change” affirmed the principle that a solution that is worse than the problem it is intended to solve is not a solution. Nuclear energy with its radioactive footprint and its inextricable link to the development of nuclear arms, and to depleted uranium in weapon system is not a solution




During the September 5-7 DPI/NGO conference on climate change, several members of the NGO community involved in the Militarism/nuclear matters and in the Peace Caucus gathered to draft a statement expressing their concern about the failure, of international bodies,  to address the impact of militarism on climate change.

This statement was presented at the end of the plenary to  Dr. Pachuri, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If leaders are to address "challenge of climate change" they cannot ignore the impact of militarism on climate change. The statement called for the following:


(i) The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to end the promotion of nuclear energy as the solution to climate change


(ii) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to investigate and estimate the full impact on greenhouse gas emissions by the military and demand that each state release information related to the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of all weapons systems, military exercises, from war games, weapons testing, military aviation, environmental warfare, troop transfer, military operations, waste generation, reconstruction after acts of violent interventions etc.;


(iii)  NATO,  whose collective activities have contributed to, not only the perpetuation of the scourge of war and the violation of international peremptory norms, but also the substantial release of greenhouse gas emissions to be disbanded;


(iv) Global military budgets to be reallocated to global social justice.

It is time for the member states of the United Nations to give substance to the years of commitments to substantially reduce the military budget and to acknowledge and address the contribution of militarism to greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently the Global Community is now spending 1.7 trillion per year on the military budget at a time when many basic needs and fundamental rights have not been fulfilled: the right to affordable and safe housing; the right to unadulterated food (pesticide-free and genetically engineered-free food); the right to safe drinking water; the right to a safe environment; the right to universally accessible, not for profit health care; and the right to free and accessible education.

The member states of the United Nations  must finally fulfill years of commitments to reallocate the military budget, and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to ensure compliance with article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change-to stabilize greenhouse gases below a level of dangerous anthropogenic emissions.


In Paris at the COP21, the member states could agree to the following:



Last Updated on Friday, 19 June 2015 15:11