Panel discussion on “Military Expenditures: Trends and Challenges”

15 April,2013

On 15 April 2013, the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations sponsored an event convened by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute North America (SIPRI) to explore how regional security environment is reflected in countries’ military spending and budget priorities, as well as the implications of these trends. The event was convened in accordance with the release of SIPRI’s 2012 data on military expenditures, an annual publication that tracks global trends in military spending.  The event was held on the occasion of 2013 session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) which was held at the UN Headquarters from 1 to 19 April.


Virginia Gamba, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of UNODA welcomed participants and noted the important contribution SIPRI data has made in years which supplemented official government reports made by UN Member States. Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida of Japan then gave introductory remarks. Japan takes the subject of military expenditures very seriously, Ambassador Nishida said, as it can help increase transparency and trust among States. He pointed out the changing dynamics in the global trend in military spending since the end of the Cold War and observed a significant increase of spending in various areas, including Asia. Ambassador Nishida also stressed the important role non-governmental organizations, including members of civil society, and think tanks such as SIPRI play in this field.


The panel discussion that followed featured three panelists: Ms. Carina Solmirano, Senior Researcher for the Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme at SIPRI; Mr. Daniel Prins, Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch at UNODA; Dr. Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Senior Fellow for the Center for International Cooperation at New York University. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, Executive Director for SIPRI North America.


Ms. Solmirano presented the main findings from the data, namely that global military expenditure fell in 2012 to $1753 billion, equivalent to 2.5 percent of global GDP. Nevertheless, world military expenditure is still higher in real terms than the peak at the end of the Cold War. She explained that the decrease was mainly due to the financial constraints faced by U.S., EU and other western States, but the increase in spending by other States such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia moderated the sharp decrease of the overall expenditure. Some could summarize the possible emerging trend as the shift “from the West to the rest,” Ms. Solmirano said.  (SIPRI 2012 military expenditure data can be found here.)


Mr. Daniel Prins of UNODA commented that the UN resolution requesting Member States to voluntarily report their military expenditures to the UN should be used to promote dialogue among States and not for the sake of reporting. Dr. Sidhu from NYU pointed out that there were a number of challenging questions regarding military expenditures that should be explored, such as what is the relationship between military expenditures and military alliances? For example, Dr. Sidhu posed the question of what impact will the Arms Trade Treaty have on the trends reported by SIPRI.


The discussion was then opened up to the floor, where participants and the panelists discussed both policy-oriented and technical issues on military spending. Some participants questioned what effect international arms conventions on landmines and cluster munitions would have on military spending. Similar points were raised in relation to what effect the Arms Trade Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty could have on capping military expenditures. One attendee also inquired whether or not technology could cut down on military expenditures for some states.


The event provided a forum for Member States, civil society, and others to discuss the significance of SIPRI’s latest data on disarmament goals and initiatives, and served as an opportunity to digest and question these recent trends. Japan will continue to advocate for increased transparency and dialogue on military expenditures at the United Nations.

Panelists and participants gathered at UN Headquarters to discuss the latest SIPRI data.

Ms. Gamba from UNODA welcomed the audience and Dr. de Jonge Oudraat from SIPRI North America, moderated the discussion.

Ambassador Nishida of Japan giving introductory remarks.

Ms. Solmirano from SIPRI presenting the 2012 SIPRI data.

Dr. Sidhu from NYU giving his views on the implications of the recent trends.

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