Military Spending Higher Than In Cold War, Oxfam Says
(Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; issued Sept. 22, 2006)
PRAGUE --- The international aid agency Oxfam says global military spending is expected to reach some $1.06 trillion this year, higher than the previous record set during the Cold War.

Oxfam says the previous record for world military spending was $1.03 trillion in 1988.

Oxfam says military spending and conflict are major causes of hunger in poor countries, and in its report the group calls on the world's governments to support a proposed treaty that would set conditions aimed at halting the transfer of arms to war zones.

The report says the United States and Middle Eastern countries are responsible for most of the growth in military spending, but says some of the world's poorest countries, mostly in Africa, have also increased spending.

The report says that between 2002 and 2003, Pakistan spent more on its military than on health care.

Oxfam notes that the conflict in the country is making it difficult to deliver relief supplies to Afghanistan, where some 2.5 million people do not have enough food to eat. (ends)

Global Military Spending Set to Top Cold War High as Conflict Causes Record Hunger
(Source: Oxfam; issued Sept. 22, 2006)
Global military spending is set to break the previous Cold War record by the end of 2006, warns international aid agency Oxfam today, as government representatives address the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Oxfam is calling on governments to ban arms sales that fuel poverty, conflict, and human rights abuses, by supporting an Arms Trade Treaty. A landmark vote to start work on such a Treaty will take place next month in the General Assembly.

As military spending has increased, conflict has become the top cause of world hunger. Africa is particularly affected: 61per cent of African countries affected by food crises are in the grip of civil wars. In Afghanistan, 2.5 million people currently do not have enough food to eat and conflict is hampering relief efforts. During the past few months in Gaza, the ongoing conflict has left hundreds of UN food containers stranded at border posts, leaving Palestinians short of essential supplies, such as bread.

The USA and countries in the Middle East are responsible for the bulk of the growth in military spending, but some of the world’s poorest countries have also increased spending. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Botswana, and Uganda all doubled their military spending between 1985 and 2000. Between 2002 and 2003, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan spent more on their military than on health care.

“Year on year arms spending escalates and year on year conflicts are causing more hunger and suffering. Arms sales do not start conflicts, but they certainly fuel and lengthen them. It is time the world stemmed the uncontrolled flood of weapons into the world’s war zones. The world must agree to start work on an Arms Trade Treaty this October,” said Bernice Romero, Oxfam International’s Campaigns Director.

Global military spending this year is estimated to reach US$1,059bn, outstripping the highest figure reached during the Cold War in real terms, and roughly fifteen times current international aid expenditure. This growth in military budgets has caused a boom for the arms industry, with the top 100 arms companies seeing their sales increase by almost 60 per cent, from US$157bn in 2000 to US$268bn in 2004.

And while the world spends more on weapons, the number and scale of conflict-related food crises is also growing. Last year, conflict became the leading cause of hunger, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Conflict and economic problems were cited as the main cause of more than 35 per cent of food emergencies between 1992 and 2003, compared to around 15 per cent in the period from 1986 to 1991.

In Afghanistan, Oxfam plans to give food to over 30,000 people in the coming months in remote areas in both Daikundi and Badakhshan provinces, with Oxfam partners reaching at least another 10,000 people. The situation on the ground is extremely challenging. Twenty eight aid workers have been killed to date in Afghanistan in 2006.

"In Afghanistan, 2.5 million people don't have enough food to eat for the winter months . It's looking bad, as there have been droughts for six out of the last seven years, so people don't have anything to fall back on. And the war's making it worse, because its hard for people to get the aid they need," added Romero.

Conflicts not only cause immediate suffering and destruction. The UK’s Department for International Development estimates that after a conflict it takes an economy an average of 20 years to get back to where it was beforehand.

“Across Africa, US$15bn is lost every year through the impact of war, an iniquitous waste of resources given the continent’s desperate need for increased development assistance. Aid money that should have been spent on peaceful development is being diverted to dealing with the humanitarian fall-out of wars. We’ve got to stop the flood of weapons to war zones in poor countries,” said Romero.

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