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Disarm and develop – UN expert urges win-win proposition for States and peoples

GENEVA (10 September 2014) – Governments should be transparent and upfront in publishing details of their military expenditures so the public can participate in deciding budget priorities, United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order Alfred de Zayas said today. 

Mr. de Zayas also called for a meaningful reduction of military spending with funds reoriented towards education, health care, the creation of employment in peaceful industries, strengthening of the rule of law and administration of justice, and to enable the realization of the right to development and the post-2015 development agenda.

“Disarmament for Development is a win-win strategy for States and Peoples.  It is time to reduce the spiral of military expenditures and to invest in research into the root causes of conflicts and in the development of strategies of conflict-prevention and resolution,” Mr. de Zayas said. “The cost in human lives of every armed conflict is staggering, but the economic cost of wars can continue for generations.”

According to World Bank figures, military expenditure can consume 20%, 30% or up to 40% of national budgets. “This frustrates any hopes of properly addressing global problems including extreme poverty, climate change, environmental pollution, desertification, and pandemics,” the UN expert added.  

In his third full-length report* to the Human Rights Council,  the Independent Expert addresses the adverse effects of military spending on the enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights and makes concrete recommendations to move towards a peaceful and people-centred international order.  
A key problem, according to Mr. de Zayas, is the consistent under-reporting of governmental expenditures for the military-industrial complex, which are often media taboos or treated as national security secrets, and the international ramifications of militarization.  “Even a cursory review of the situation worldwide reveals that, in many countries, accurate and understandable information on military expenditures is not available. In some countries, military activities are concealed by placing them under different rubrics such as energy, research or homeland security,” the Independent Expert said.

“Participation by the public in decision-making, which requires full information, transparency and accountability, is essential to the democratic order.  Parliaments have a special responsibility to oversee the adoption of national budgets and to monitor the actual use of appropriations so as to ferret out corruption,” he stressed.

The continued research into new weapons that may be used to deter, threaten, attack and occupy adversaries is particularly shocking, Mr. de Zayas said. These include lethal autonomous weapon systems, killer robots, radiological weapons, unmanned combat aerial weapons and cluster munitions. 

“Excessive military expenditures have their own logic and their own dynamic. The profit-driven character of the armaments industry may well undermine the otherwise legitimate aim of protecting the population from outside threats,” he said.

In his report, the Independent Expert urged all States to engage in good faith disarmament negotiations and commit themselves to reduce military expenditures and redirect the released funds to the promotion of all human rights.  In this regard, he commended the last session of the UN Conference on Disarmament and welcomed the convening of a civil society forum in December 2014.
“As Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said, ‘the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded’. A major shift in priorities is vital for both States and peoples,” Mr. de Zayas said.

(*) See the full report to the UN Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx


Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Mr. de Zayas practiced corporate law and family law in New York and Florida. As a Human Rights Council’s mandate holder, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IntOrder/Pages/IEInternationalorderIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 9389 / tguillet@ohchr.org) or write to ie-internationalorder@ohchr.org

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