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Money: for healthcare not warfare


WILPF, open letter, #FundHealthcareNotWarfare,Covid-19 is a deadly reminder that armed force cannot make us safe.

Nineteen charities and NGOs have called for the billions of pounds currently spent on the UK’s armed force to be used instead to tackle Covid-19 and related problems.

In an open letter, they said that ‘defence’ and ‘security’ must not be allowed to be euphemisms for war.

And they have called for the money allocated to ‘defence’ to be spent on measures that really defend people, including protection from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The BBC reported that the UK allocates 5p in every pound to defence spending, making it the fourth largest area of government spending.

In 2019 the government spent £49.3billion – and had the sixth largest defence budget in the world – and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was given £2.2billion, a rise of 2.6 per cent, in the September 2019 spending review.

The signatories include the Peace Pledge Union, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Medact, an organisation of medical professionals concerned with human rights, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) UK and Scotland, Veterans for Peace, Pax Christi, Cymdeithas y Cymod, the Campaign Against Arms Trade, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

They wrote: “Covid-19 is a deadly reminder that armed force cannot make us safe. People around the world have the same needs and face many of the same threats.”

They acknowledged the work of armed forces personnel in building hospitals, along with decisions by certain arms companies to divert some of their resources to making ventilators.

But they pointed out that these initiatives involve just a small percentage of armed forces and arms companies.

Military personnel took part in building the Nightingale Hospital in London and the Dragon’s Heart Hospital in Cardiff. The arms company Babcock has diverted some resources to produce ventilators.

But these initiatives, which involved just a small percentage of the armed forces and arms industry, should be the first step in reallocating ‘defence’ resources to defending us from the most serious threats to our security.

The signatories to the letter point out that while some UK troops are helpfully delivering medical supplies, others are stirring up tension through NATO exercises and training the Saudi forces that have targeted civilians in Yemen.

And the recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya demonstrate that deep-seated problems cannot be solved with bombs.

This open letter is the latest development in growing calls for the billions of pounds wasted on war and militarism to be used instead for healthcare and real security. On 18 April, members and allies of the Peace Pledge Union held a day of online action around the campaign for “Healthcare, Not Warfare“.

Following a deal made in 2018, British ministers spent £10.4billion of public money on 48 F35 fighter jets. And despite the pandemic, they are committed to buying another 90 of them.

The organisations that have signed the letter suggest that money diverted from military budgets could contribute towards NHS and social care costs, initiatives to assist those losing their jobs and support for people whose mental health is affected by isolation.

And they say that longer term, ‘defence’ resources need to shifted to tackling real threats to human security, such as pandemics, poverty and climate change.

The UK government’s security reviews in 2010, 2015 and 2018 identified a possible pandemic as a likely and serious threat to security, but, as the signatories to the open letter say, despite this, the establishment has continued to see ‘security’ and ‘defence’ solely in terms of preparation for war.

Pressure to divert military spending is also growing at international level: both the Global Campaign On Military Spending and War Resisters’ International have said that the global pandemic should prompt the world to put energy and funds into saving lives rather than taking them.

To read the open letter, click here.

To add your organisations name to the list of signatories, click here.

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