Do you have any idea how much money it would cost to feed the hungry people around the globe? The amount is estimated to be about $265 billion per year. Roughly, seven percent of the total global military spending in 2019.
Almost 690 million people around the world went hungry last year with chronic hunger rising year-on-year since the commitment to 'zero hunger' was made by 193 world leaders ratifying the sustainable development goals in 2015. If the trend continues, the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030. To date, the world is falling behind its target to end hunger and starvation by the stipulated time frame.
On the other hand, military spending has been on the rise across borders for the sake of strengthening national security. In 2019, total global military expenditure was $1917 billion, which is 3.6 percent higher than the preceding year.
This ever-increasing military spending does not in any way make the world safer and instead escalates tension among the nations, year after year. In particular, the nuclear arms race will push the world towards a more volatile economic and political situation in the years to come.
For instance, the arms-control agreement between Russia and the US is going to expire in February; China is planning on expanding its nuclear arsenal; tensions are rising in the Korean Peninsula in the face of growing nuclear threat from North Korea, with Japan and South Korea thinking of building their own nuclear warheads; the constant struggle between the nuclear-armed neighbours – India and Pakistan; and the uncertainty regarding the scrambled Iran nuclear deal.
Why are billions of dollars being spent every year on renewing and maintaining these unnecessary weapons of mass destruction instead of spending this money on more humane causes like saving the lives of the impoverished millions around the world? Why can we not hold the heads of the nuclear-armed states and the top military spenders accountable for their extravagant expenses on military and nuclear arms which threatens the well-being of everyone around the world?
Global extreme poverty was expected to rise from 2020 for the first time in over 20 years due to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The per-capita global military spending in 2019 was approximately $249 per person while the international poverty line determined by the World Bank is a mere $1.9, and 689 million people are living below this poverty threshold. This is shocking in a "world of plenty."
Despite the adverse conditions worldwide due to Covid-19 induced hunger, recession, and famine; global militarisation expenditure continues to rise.
The warmongering state leaders have failed to take lessons from the Spanish flu of 1918. In a world where millions of people are dying of starvation, the hawkish leaders of nations are spending trillions of dollars to be able to kill each other.
It is high time they did something for humanity. They should recognise the vulnerability of society during the ongoing pandemic and realise that more funds should be allocated for food security and health care, and not for gaining military supremacy. They should vow to nurture humanity rather than create situations that could endanger it. Battling the coronavirus would have been much easier if the world had sacrificed only 10 percent of its military budget.
At present, the global economy is in dire condition because of the pandemic. The situation is much more unsettling in developing countries. Even in this precarious time, there are no signs of a reduction in military spending by large-scale spenders.
Reducing military spending and investing the surplus into food security, healthcare, education and overall economic development to revive the world economy in this global crisis should be the priority of world leaders.
As long as state leaders fail to break out of the vicious cycle of war, the dream of a peaceful world will remain myopic. The United Nations can provide a rules-based order concerning military expenditure for the nations to conform to, so that we can shy away from chaos and anarchy.
However, it is hard to tell when the members of the UN Security Council will wake up from their state of paralysis. To make the world a better place to live for the destitute, national leaders will first have to move away from the temptation of war to build a hunger-free and poverty-free world.
Can we dream of a world free from war, conflict, terrorism, hunger, poverty and inequality? With that hope in mind, I echo the words of Martin Luther King Jr, "we need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice, not in love with publicity but in love with humanity."
The author is a Fulbright grantee at the Institute of International Education (IIE) Exchange Programs – US Department of State and is a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.