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The 1.5 Trillion Dollar Question: NGOs Discuss Military Expenditure
-Report from the Event-
By Maisha Lopa, NGOCDPS Intern
March 9th 2011 – The Committee of Religious NGOs and the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security held a joint meeting at Church Center to discuss excessive global military expenditures, explore ways to divert the money towards other global crises and prepare for the upcoming Global Day of Action on Military Spending. The Global Day of Action, which is being organized by the International Peace Bureau and the Institute for Policy Studies, aims to unite people from all over the world in joint actions to focus public, political, and media attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities. The event will coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) new annual figures on world military expenditures.
The meeting featured a panel of distinguished experts including Ms. Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Mr. Ibrahim Ramey of the Muslim American Society, and Mr. Hiro Sakurai of Soka Gokkai International. The event was moderated by Ms. Allison Pytlak of Religions for Peace.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Pytlak stressed that the excessive and overall amount of spending was being put into defense at the expense of critical humanitarian issues such as education and development. She pointed out that the projections for military spending is expected to reach $1.6 trillion in 2010 and encouraged the NGOs present to participate in the Day of Action, which will take place on April 12th.
Ms. Acheson, Project Director of Reaching Critical Will, provided the audience with statistics and hard information about global military spending. She explained that military spending has increased by 50% since 2009 and that even during the global economic crisis, 2/3 of countries increased their military expenditure. Ms. Acheson spoke about how the global arms industry is becoming more concentrated, growing bigger and richer as instances of conflict, war, and terrorism become more prevalent. Moreover as “investment in conflict” increases by means of arms sales, investments in conflict resolution and peace initiatives are falling far behind. She concluded her speech by bringing attention to the fact that the amount of global military spending in 2009 – $1.5 trillion – is equal to 700 years of the regular UN budget.
Mr. Sakurai is the UN representative of Soka Gakkai International, a worldwide network of lay Buddhists dedicated to peace, culture and education, and also the current President of the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. He related to the topic from a Buddhist perspective. He stated that spending $1.5 trillion for military is a weapon of mass destruction itself and that none of these funds contribute, in any way, to the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the United Nations. The eight goals were established in 2000 as the means to reduce poverty and encourage development, but are facing their 2015 deadline and it is not certain that they will all be achieved. He expounded upon the need to bridge the gap in communications between policy makers and disarmament advocates. As he said, “For a successful dialogue, we need to know why our opponents find it necessary to hang on to these budgets. They think weapons enhance security, but in fact they increase fear and threat and invite more tension and trouble, which then promotes the cycle of violence.” Finally, Mr. Sakurai highlighted the importance of human security over military security, and recalled an ancient Buddhist story that illustrates how it can be achieved. “Establish security not through military might but through the promotion of democracy, social development and human rights,” he concluded.
The final speaker of the panel was Mr. Ibrahim Ramey of the Muslim American Society. Mr. Ramey touched upon a range of issues regarding religion and disarmament and specifically highlighted the need for greater disarmament dialogues within the Muslim community. Ramey mentioned the use of treaties in Islamic history, beginning with the Treaty of Medina in 622 C.E.,that rejected the notion of armed conflict and required peaceful co-existence between Muslims and members of other faith communities. However, he noted that “What is missing is the internal conversation in Islam and the larger global conversations about what to do $1.5 trillion. Christian communities have led the way in serious discussions about peace and disarmament dialogues. In Islam you have a different challenge, because the platform for this kind of dialogue has not started to solidify.” Mr. Ramey also stressed the importance of raising the leadership of women to the forefront because the consequences of war and militarization have been more devastating to women and children. He said, “If the war systems of the world are crafted by men, we need to recognize that women will lead us out of it. Discourse of movement has to include women.” Lastly, he called upon the faith-based community to find ways to demilitarize the U.S. economy in particular, and push for the idea of creating a National Department of Peace which could work toward converting the militarized U.S. economy into a normalized one.
The event was well-attended and included representatives of both faith-based and secular organizations as well as from UN agencies such as the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs. The event concluded with a short video that featured a diverse group of people about what they would do with $1.5 trillion dollars. Their answers, almost unanimously, touched upon humanitarian causes. The success of this joint effort by RNGOs and Disarmament NGOs will hopefully propel further collaborative efforts between NGOs ahead of the April 12th Global Day of Action Against Military Spending.
-More information about the Day of Action can be found at www.demilitarize.org
-More information about the NGO Committee on Disarmament Peace and Security can be found at http://disarm.igc.org/
See VIDEO: “What Would You Do with $1.6 Trillion?” HERE
Informal Discussion on Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue
The Committee of Religious NGOs, the Mission of the Philippines and UNESCO hosted 75 people for lunch and to share updates on interreligous and intercultural dialogue and initiatives on May 31, 2011. In attendance were representatives from 14 Missions: Philippines, United States, Indonesia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Liberia, Russia, Belarus, China, Italy, Surinam and Slovenia, the UK Consulate and five UN Agencies: UNESCO, UNICEF, DESA, UN Alliance of Civilizations and the UN Programme on Youth, as well as a wide range of NGOs.
Distinguished speakers included:
Mr. Philippe Kridelka, Director, UNESCO NY Office
H.E. Amb. Carlos D. Sorreta, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN
H.E. Amb. Bernadette Cavanagh, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN
H.E. Amb. Yusra Khan, Deputy Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN
Mr. John Sammis, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Mr. Marghoob Saleem Butt, Counselor, The Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN
Mr. Marc-Andre Dorel, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)
Rochelle Roca-Hachem, Culture Specialist, UNESCO
The Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN and
The Committee on Freedom of Religion and Belief
co-hosted a conversation with
Suzan Johnson Cook
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom
At the Mission of the United States to the United Nations
Amb. Suzan Johnson Cook presented an update of her first year in office, including travel to meet with her counterparts in many countries of the world. She then took questions from the NGOs gathered, who represented a wide range of religions and cultures.
This was a historic occasion, since the U.S. Mission had not previously hosted a meeting of any NGO committees.
Our first conversation with Amb. Johnson Cook was held last year, on September 20, 2011 at the Baha’i UN office.
Amb. Johnson Cook and her colleague, Nasreen I. Badat, answered questions and listened with interest to RNGO concerns regarding the role of her office, which is under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in encouraging religious freedom across the globe.
Information may be found at the Office of International Religious Freedom at www.state.gov/g/drl/irf.
Amb. Johnson Cook can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RFAmbassador.
RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS CALL TO CLIMATE ACTION
21 SEPTEMBER 2009*
We, representatives of diverse religious traditions from around the world gathered on the International Day of Peace, reflect in story, song and prayer about humanity’s collective responsibility in the climate crisis. We are entrusted with the well-being of people around the world. There is more than an agreement at stake.
WE RECOGNIZE particularly that indigenous peoples have a profound stewardship of Creation and affirm their worldview, which sees the connectedness of all living things and our collective interdependence. This is a view that we need to adopt in fighting the effects of climate change. With dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, destabilizing earth’s climate, acidifying the oceans, threatening the living systems on which all life depends, both humanity and all living creatures now face unacceptable risk.
WE ACKNOWLEDGE our collective responsibility for the climate danger and suffering faced by the most affected and marginalized among us, those in extreme poverty, the disabled, older persons, those in coastal communities, on small islands, who are bearing the worst impacts of the climate crisis while contributing least to it.
WE ACKNOWLEDGE that while climate change affects everyone and everything, it does not affect all equally, disproportionately affecting women and people of color. Without appropriate and urgent action, plant and animal species, as well as people and cultures, will increasingly continue to suffer and to die. This concerns us.
WE FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGE that although governments can mold policy and commitments, which can be global in effect, governments alone cannot make the change of heart and mind that will turn the human-earth community into a global culture of ecological responsibility. This task belongs to all of us.
WE URGE you therefore to take bold action that demonstrates the attitudinal shift that will mark the Copenhagen negotiations in December 2009 as the time when humanity came together to avert a climate crisis and we unite our diverse voices in the following Call to Action. There’s more than an agreement at stake.
CALL TO CLIMATE ACTION
Our religions stand united in their call to care for the Earth and her peoples. We stand united in our insistence that those most affected by this crisis, with fewest choices, have a just hearing and recourse.
Recognizing that climate change is not merely an economic or technical problem, but at its core is a moral, spiritual and cultural one, we therefore pledge to join together to teach and guide the people who follow the call of our religions. We must all learn to live together within the shared limits of our planet.
We commit ourselves to action: to changing our habits of consumption, our choices about what makes for a life of wellbeing, and the way we see the world; to learning; to teaching our families, friends and faiths; to conserving the limited resources of our home, planet Earth, and to preserving the climate conditions upon which life depends, while continuously working to develop practices of sustainable development, where the fundamental rights to health, housing, food, decent work would be available to all.
We call for global leaders boldlyto adopt strong, binding, science-based targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases in order to avert the worst dangers of a climate crisis based on a climate justice framework.
We call upon the industrialized nations to act responsibly in mitigation efforts,by making the largest cuts in carbon emissions, showing leadership in their ethical behavior.
We urge all nations of Earth to ensure that those who will be most affected under climate-induced changes such as more severe storms, floods, droughts and rising seas, be given what they need to adapt, survive and equitably prosper.
We call upon industrialized nations to acknowledge their higher level of responsibility for creating development models that have caused this unintended but tragic consequence for much of climate change. We ask that therefore they contribute a higher proportion of their GNP to those countries suffering the worst effects of climate change.
We call upon industrialized nations to place a priority on building just and sustainable development models in both the North and South, where all are ensured of food, housing and healthcare according to the traditions of our religions and the collective compassion, wisdom and leadership of humanity.
We urge those making decisions at the tables of governmental power to insist that the voices of those nations and peoples most affected by climate change and with the least choice be at their deliberations to serve as a visible witness that the climate crisis is now.
We call upon our leaders to recognize the crucial stewardship role of indigenous peoples the need to cooperate with and to support their adaptation initiatives, and to strengthen their vital contributions to climate change mitigation. We call for an immediate stop to mitigation measures adversely impacting indigenous peoples, causing displacement, environmental degradation of traditional lands and serious human rights violations.
We further urge that the natural world itself be considered a partner at the table and not a commodity to be used solely for human pleasure or gain.
We call upon our leaders, those of our faiths and all people of Earth to accept the reality of the common danger we face, the imperative and responsibility for immediate and decisive action and the opportunity to change.
There’s more than an agreement at stake.
* The call is inspired by the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change, http://www.interfaithdeclaration.org/, and further developed by the organizing committee of the Global Interfaith Gathering and Call to Action, September 21, 2009. This call is posted on www.religionsforpeace.org.
The International Day of Peace RNGO Observance
Conversation on “The Next Ten Years”
The International Day of Peace was observed in partnership with the Office of the Chaplain at the Church Center for the United Nations. Sept 21 opened with an observance in the Chapel with music by Aliza Hava and prayers from different traditions. Everyone had the opportunity to pray for the nations of the world and add their personal hopes for peace. This was followed by a light lunch and panel discussion on the second floor of the Church Center.
The panel was titled, The Next Ten Years, and how to change from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. Amb. Ahmad Kamal of Pakistan, who now serves as Senior Fellow at UN Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR), shared some powerful thoughts about where we are now and what is needed. He talked about how public service was not about money in the past and how it was such a part of his family tradition. He shared some thoughts on how money has changed things, including economics, where money used to measure production not wealth. He shared that the poverty ratio between rich and poor is increasing, and looking at how NGOs and the UN operate more on talk than on actions – and how the doors to the UN literally closed to the NGOs over the years. His vision challenged and informed us.
Next was Thomas Uthup, Research and Education Manager of the Alliance for Civilizations. He shared research he did on UN Days and suggested that RNGOs consider using annual, monthly themes so that in ten years’ time, we would be able to share a body of work on specific issues.
The young voices of Christopher Dekki and Maya Saoud from IMCS International Movement for Catholic Students, IMCS- Pax Romana offered ideas, and shared hope and success storiesand that NGOs are action-oriented and not just talking about issues. They shared actions and hopes and encouraged us to involve youth from our organizations in the planning and in the activities at the UN.
Ending Violence against Women
H.E. Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo, Deputy Permanent Representative, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations
Jacqueline Moturi Ogega, Director of the Women’s Mobilization Program, Religions for Peace
Ven. Dr. Chung Ohun Lee, Executive Director, UN Affairs and Interreligious Work, Won Buddhism International
Moderator: Carl Murrell, Baha’i International
Ambassador Ojiambo highlighted the legal framework Kenya has to provide protection for women in situations of violence. She also noted that Kenya has a Ministry for Gender and Children’s Affairs.
Jacqueline Moturi Ogega spoke on the role of faith communities in preventing violence against women. She highlighted the resources that faith traditions have to combat violence against women, but also noted that religious communities allow such violence to take place by silence on the issue as well as by working in isolation rather than coordinating efforts among faith communities.
Venerable Dr. Chung Ohun Lee emphasized the need to educate faith communities about using the legal frameworks available to combat violence against women and the need to address internalized oppression and promote gender equality in faith communities.