From Article 26 to an institutional link between disarmament and development
A look at ARCs' future prospects by ARC UN/NGO Liaison Officer Fidel Asante
'We should recall Article 26 of the Charter of the United Nations, which envisages a an international system based on the "least diversion for armaments of the worlds human and economic resources".' Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the foreword to the 2004 Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on the relationship between Disarmament and Development.
Looking back over the past 3 years since the inception of the ARC campaign, there is much to be pleased about, whilst at the same time much to take stock of, if not actually lament.
We have been modestly successful in raising awareness of the billions annually squandered on arms and the military and we have managed to strike a chord with people from all walks of life. Yet in the policy of the wealthier governments little has actually changed, and if statistics are to be believed there has been a year on year increase in global military expenditure of about 5% .1
In the field of Overseas aid an incremental increase in governmental spending has still left 30,000 a day dying of hunger whilst each year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.2
Yet amidst all this we still found the energy to affirm and press for the implementation of Article 26, an aim that is lost on many a 'peace-seeking' diplomat and one that rarely makes the headlines.
The crux of the problem was, and to a degree still is, how we might best promote the aims of disarmament whilst also emphasising the need for disarmament to lead and secure development.
Would we simply call for a treaty like many others settling for some written commitment to scale down arms spending? Or perhaps we should settle for a one-off reduction of say, 1-5% of global military spending, with the savings diverted to UN humanitarian programmes? Or we could be really ambitious and push for nothing short of a global arms amnesty!
In time I have settled on the view that the principles underlying the ARC Resolution must be 'born' in some UN multi-agency programme to which nations could add and draw resources for the creation of an international culture of peace. The creation of what could be a global security fund or facility seems most in keeping with the spirit of the ARC Resolution while paving the way for the political 'revelation' that arms and underdevelopment are more inclined to threaten security than protect it.
One can then imagine how encouraged we were to come upon one of the few remaining copies of the UNIDIR model for the 'Establishment of an International Disarmament Fund for Development', (EIDFD). 3
Compiled in 1984 as decided by the 1982 UN General Assembly Resolution 37/84, and having been researched and produced by a cross-cultural seven-person steering group including and chaired by ex-French PM Edgar Faure, the book gives a comprehensive and concise history on the discussion of mechanisms to release resources spent on the military for development, as the issue has been discussed in the UN since the mid 50's. It adequately explores in sufficient detail the various aspects of such discussions and the many points that need to be ironed out before any distinct 'relationship between disarmament and development' (RDD) can be agreed upon for subsequent institutionalisation. The publication is a must for anyone interested in the link between disarmament and development.
The history of these discussions is one full of stops and starts, as way back in 1955 the French Prime Minister Edgar Faure tabled a plan at a meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission4, proposing the "progressive reduction of military expenditures and the potential reallocation of the resources thus released to tasks of 'development' and 'mutual assistance' in order to improve the standard of living of the developing countries" 5. He also proposed establishing a uniform definition of what 'military expenditure' is and a standardised terminology of the items that 'take up' the military budget of each country. Ambitious as it was for the time it was followed in 1956 by a Soviet Union plan for the creation of a UN fund to assist developing countries, financed by military budget restrictions. A similar proposal was made by the Soviets in 1958 outlining 10-15% reductions of the military budgets of the Soviet Union, UK, France and the US with a part of those reductions to be allocated to the fund. Neither France's nor the Soviets' proposals made any impact at the time. This may have been something to do with the cold war, or related concerns about 'trust' in the Security Council at the time, but to focus on the 'political motives' behind such moves might blind one to the deeper significance of the humanitarian breakthrough's, which however modest, these essentially military considerations demonstrate.
In 1964 Brazil submitted to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament plans for the creation of an "industrial conversion and economic development fund" 6 enabled and maintained by a pro-rata contribution of 20% of global military spending, yet this went no further than the Conference itself.
Still ambitious and undeterred, the Soviet Union came back in 1973 with the proposal of a 10% reduction of the P-5's (permanent five members of the Security Council) military budgets, with 10% those reductions going to assisting developing countries. Plans were under way to set up a special committee to "distribute the resources" 7 on top of existing flows of Official Development Aid. The General Assembly in 1973 even adopted this proposal as Resolution 3093.
Though as encouraging as these proceedings were, no tangible steps were taken to establish any such 'disarmament for development' mechanism. At the time it was uncertain whether a mechanism of this kind could rely on funds from year on year reductions in military spending as this proposal, along with the 1964 Brazilian proposal, did not make clear. What must be clear though, is that to remain functional such a mechanism necessarily depends on annual reductions of military spending, not only to supplement a 'Fund', but also to verifiably guarantee the material development of its beneficiaries.
Other proposals by Romania (1975,1977) and Senegal (1978) 8 were equally unsuccessful, until in the 1978 UN Special Session on Disarmament the French President Vale'ry Giscard d'Estaing proposed an 'institutional link' (IL) between disarmament and development in the form of an 'International Disarmament Fund for Development' (IDFD) at the first UN Special Session on Disarmament 9. Mexico endorsed this proposal and took it further by suggesting opening a special ad-hoc account under the administration of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).
This signified at least a willingness on the part of the international community to take up this issue in more earnest as also that year both Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim and a Group of Government Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development (GGERDD) were asked to produce reports10 on the RDD, which they duly did11. It was this willingness that led to the more serious General Assembly Resolution 37/84 which led to the and the creation of the UNIDIR publication.
At the 1983 General assembly French President Francois Mitterand proposed the holding of a preparatory conference with a view to establishing an IDFD 12. The 1987 'International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development' was the belated outcome of this proposal, convened at a period when the cold war was coming to a close, and it was thought that the extraordinary military budgets 13 was good enough reason to take practical steps to initiate a disarmament led development programme.
The report of the conference 14 reflected the regular concerns outlined in previous reports on the RDD. Upon acknowledging Article 26, 15 the delegates jointly contended that the arms race absorbed " too great a proportion of the world's human, financial, natural and technological resources" 16 and that "The allocation of massive resources for armaments impedes the pursuit of development to its optimal level" 17. In noting the ecological effects of war, they contended that "the production and stockpiling of armaments, particularly of nuclear and chemical weapons poses a significant threat to the environment" 18 that the use of resources for the military "provides little basis for future industrial civilian production" 19 and that the high military spending of developing countries is a significant factor in deflecting investment away from development activities.
Planned activities to follow the conference were to be the promotion of multilateralism as a means of "providing the international framework for shaping the relationship between disarmament, development and security", 20 to "asses the nature and volume of resources that may be released through arms limitation and disarmament measures" 21, and to request the Secretary-General to "foster and co-ordinate the incorporation of disarmament and development perspective in the activities of the United Nations system"22.
As military spending fell in the following years from its historic height of $1.1trillion dollars, and the Cold war ended, the sense of political urgency on the issue of disarmament for development subsided. In the subsequent years proposals for the creation of some mechanism to steward the release of resources from the military uses to those of development by interested states have generally been sidelined.
Indeed, apart from these national observations and the subsequent annual reports by the Secretary-general on the issue, little or no ground has been made on the establishment of some IL between disarmament and development.
In 2002 UN General Assembly Resolution 57/65, it was requested that the Secretary-General with a group of governmental experts, "reappraise the relationship between disarmament and development" In June 2004 a report was subsequently completed and submitted. 23 The report is surprisingly relaxed in tone amidst an annual 5% increase in arms spending 24 and the onset of the 'war on terror'. Whilst going over the same ground as previous reports it noted the inseparability of security, disarmament and development. It concluded by encouraging member states to take steps towards the "universalisation and implementation" 25, with internationally negotiated arms agreements and to implement with "transparency and accuracy their 1987 commitments to asses their political and security requirements and levels of military spending" 26.
Most encouraging from an ARC perspective was the recommendation that the Secretary-general might consider taking steps to "encourage relevant departments and agencies to share best practises, seek shared understanding and increase co-operation, co-ordination and joint programming" 27 on the RDD.
Going back to the 1982 General Assembly resolution 37/84 which produced the UNIDIR study on an IL referred to earlier, it is sad and perhaps surprising that the notion of an IL has not gained more ground or even been 'grounded' already in some actual UN agency. It would be idealistic but not foolish to think that the P-5 would have submitted themselves to such a mechanism, as it was they who first proposed it.
The UNIDIR study documents how an initial obstacle to the simple establishing of such an agency could be the concept of an innate link between disarmament and development, 28 as for some their relation is self-evident, whilst for others, very tenuous if linked at all.
Not at all surprised at this, I fear that no amount of reports by groups of governmental experts will reveal the link, but rather it may be that some worst case scenario like a military-inspired disaster; economic, environmental or otherwise, will sufficiently disclose the hidden principle of cause and effect.
That aside, other differences noted by the study centre on the identifying the best method of diverting resources from military to development programmes 29. The main approaches investigated were a disarmament dividend approach; which like the ARC resolution would result in savings from disarmament to be transferred to a fund for development aims. An arms levy approach; in which contributions to the fund would be in proportion to military expenditure on weapons, human resources, research, exports etc. A voluntary approach; where contributions are given at the discretion of the donor country in no predetermined measure or regularity.
For practical purposes, the ARC, along with those cognisant of the security threats posed by the present high level of global military spending could not accept either an arms levy approach or simple voluntary contributions. If for no other reasons than a levy on armaments would allow certain countries to spend as much on armaments as they could afford, to legitimise high arms spending and then to use the diverted sums to top-up (not compliment) their ODA commitments.
Voluntary contributions in themselves can do no harm, but in order to underscore the intent of the fund (which is to symbolise the acknowledged link between disarmament and development) a set percentage year on year contribution at the least, must be the minimum requirement, if the fund is to command any international political credibility or effectively represent the effort towards the establishment of international peace and security.
It is clear that some of the major powers are in principle cognisant of the obligations to implement Article 26, as well as the rest of the Charter, what may not be so clear is how they will mobilise or can be mobilised to establish this cognition in the form of a UN mechanism.
It should be mentioned that one of the more productive initiatives on the RDD was the creation by Kofi Annan of a 'High Level Steering Group on Disarmament and Development' 30. Established in 1999 it was to be an interdepartmental taskforce composed of the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, the administrator of UNDP and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Under the overall co-ordination of the Department for Disarmament Affairs, to jointly cooperate on the RDD in the UN system. Sadly from our perspective, it has been sidelined due to, wait for it 'lack of resources'! 31
The successes of campaigns such as the Jubilee 2000,32 World Court Project 33 along with all other great peoples movements in history show us that when activists and those concerned come together on an issue, they are strongest when they can channel their concerns in a co-ordinated manner at those who make or would make the pivotal decisions affecting them. The attacks of September 11th 2001, the Rwandan genocide and many others show that we can't afford to wait for things to reach crisis point before we take vital actions.
In our favour, were both the upbeat discussions by the UN first committee last autumn 34, producing many encouraging observations on the RDD, and the proposal for an International Finance Facility by Gordon Brown which, even if not 'sold' to the major industrial countries, represents a move on the part of the UK to mobilise international institutional support for the fulfilment of what are more and more seen as international responsibilities.
The worldwide response to the immediate requirements of those affected by the Tsunami also show that the people of the world realise the ongoing emergency surrounding the provision of resources in line with development goals.
In the immediate future the ARC is looking at; the reinvigoration of the UN High-Level Steering Group on Disarmament and Development; how an International Disarmament Fund for Development could be taken up with a minimum condition of 1-5% reduction in military spending with the savings devoted to humanitarian priorities decided by the UN General assembly; how the peaceful use of natural resources, can be institutionalised at the highest levels of national governments; and how the public can be more informed and involved on the issue of human security as the link between disarmament and development.
Undeterred by the less than progressive sounds that have come out of the present US administration, the ARC is sufficiently encouraged that in the coming years the sway of world public opinion, along with government policy behind it, will move towards concerted actions enabling the establishment of lasting international peace and security.
1.) From '2004 Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development' p9, para 5, (A/59/119). 2.) See http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/facts/index.htm . 3.) 'EIDFD' Document: UNIDIR /84/08. 4.) Doc: DC/71,annex16. 5.) 'EIDFD', p119. 6.) 'EIDFD', p14. 7.) 'EIDFD', p14. 8.) Docs: a/c.1/1066,a/ac/187/78 and a/s-10/ac.1/37, para. 101. 9.) Doc: a/s-10/ac.1/28. 10.) UNGA resolution 33/71.11.) Doc: 36/356. 12.) UNGA Resolution38/71. 13.) Doc: A/59/119, p9, para5. 14.) Doc: A/conf.130/139.15.) Doc: A/conf.130/139, p14, para1. 16.) Doc: A/conf.130/139, p14, para3. 17.) Doc: A/conf.130/139,p15, para10. 18.) Doc: A/conf.130/139, p17, para 22. 19.) Doc: A/conf.130/139, p18, para25. 20.) Doc: A/conf.130/139, p19, para35b. 21.) Doc: A/conf.130/139,p21, para7b. 22.) Doc: A/conf.130/139, p21, para9b. 23.) Doc: A/59/119. 24. Doc: A/59/119 p9, para7. 25.) Doc: A/59/119 p23, para79. 26.) Doc: A/59/119 p23, para81. 27.) Doc: para78, p23. 28.) 'EIDFD' p36, section2. 29.) 'EIDFD' p76, para37. 30.) Doc: A/59/119p21.31 A/59/119, p22, para68. 32.) See: http://www.jubilee2000uk.org/ . 33.) See: http://wcp.gn.apc.org/home.html . 34. Contact the ARC for short transcripts of short transcripts of the 2004 UN 1st Comm RDD sessions.