Ending Poverty, Hunger Possible With Just a Fraction of Global Military Spending

Home / Ending Poverty, Hunger Possible With Just a Fraction of Global Military Spending

Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger—two of the the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015—may seem far out of reach. But, according to a new study, it could done with about ten percent of the world’s military spending.

The finding highlighting global priorities is from the the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), whose latest analysis (pdf) shows that global military spending is up for the first time since 2011.

Total such expenditures added up to $1.7 trillion in 2015, marking a 1 percent increase from 2014.

Spending $596 billion in 2015, the U.S. still ranks number one in terms of military expenditures, though that spending declined 2.4 percent, “its slowest annual rate since 2011,” the report notes. It still greatly outspent China, which holds the number 2 spot, which SIPRI estimates to have spent $215 billion.

Along with the U.S. and China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the UK are the biggest spenders.

While North America and Western Europe saw declines in military expenditures, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Oceania saw increases, SIPRI’s analysis finds.

“Military spending in 2015 presents contrasting trends,” said Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI’s military expenditure project, in a press statement. “On the one hand, spending trends reflect the escalating conflict and tension in many parts of the world; on the other hand, they show a clear break from the oil-fueled surge in military spending of the past decade. This volatile economic and political situation creates an uncertain picture for the years to come.”

Perlo-Freeman also looked at what could be achieved with those funds—or the “opportunity cost” of the military allocation of the funds—at his organization’s WritePeace blog. Take SDGs 1 and 2 on ending hunger and poverty, respectively:

Take about 50 percent of global military spending, and the achievements are clearly more far-reaching. He wrote:

Looking at such comparisons “gives some sort of perspective that can allow people to see what is the opportunity cost involved with global military spending,” Perlo-Freeman told Reuters.

“This could stir up some debate although we are certainly not expecting a 10 percent cut in military spending at all,” he said. “That is all about the politics of these countries.”

As Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, stated following the SDGs’ adoption, “The goals are achievable, but it cannot be business as usual. Governments—rich and poor—must defy vested interests that seek to maintain the status quo at the expense of people and the planet.”

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