The Department for International Development (DFID) refused to accept a cheque for £38 billion representing the UK defence budget from peace activists this week.
General Secretary of Pax Christi Pat Gaffney led a group of faith based activists, marking the day of action on global military spending, around Whitehall offering the £38 billion cheques, as part of a plea to get the different departments to use the defence budget for social and environmental needs.
John Hilary of War on Want, tried to hand in a large cheque for £38 billion to DFID, explaining that the money should be used to promote peace and development, rather than military projects. DFID refused to accept it.
There was better fortune at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which took its cheque for £38 billion plus a letter urging that money be devoted to addressing climate impacts and flood defences rather than military expenditure. Pat Gaffney and Ellen Teague of Columban JPIC were thanked.
Then it was a walk past Downing Street to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where Bruce Kent, a vice president of Pax Christi, handed in another cheque for £38 billion, and deplored world military expenditure of a massive £2.5 trillion. He urged the big development agencies such as CAFOD, Christian Aid, and Save the Children Fund to be more forthright in condemning hefty military expenditure. He expressed surprise that in the current context of global socio-economic crisis, few have voiced indignation regarding the disproportionate levels of military spending.
‘NHS not Trident’ ‘Jobs not Trident’ ‘Homes not Trident’ ‘Climate not Trident’ were among the banners heading down a sunny Whitehall.
At the Department of Health, the cheque was again accepted and staff there were challenged to consider that “military spending is bad for health”, and “a militarised world is bad for health”.
Some 1 in 4 children in the UK grow up in poverty, that 20,000 disabled people will lose support for the basics in life when the Independent Living Fund closes, and that thirteen times more people are relying on foodbanks to survive than did five years ago. Meanwhile, the UK’s military spending is among the highest in the world.
The Ministry of Defence took in a cancelled cheque for £38 billion from Pat Gaffney and Kate Hudson, Chair of CND, who said she was “proud to be part of this coalition against military spending”. She continued: “While the British public are living through the deepest spending cuts in recent history, the government still sees fit to waste over £100bn on a Cold War weapons system and to spend £38bn on the military this year alone. The Global Day of Action on Military Spending is a vital challenge to the skewed priorities of this government, and governments around the world who choose weapons of war over the welfare of their people.”
The protest concluded with Pat Gaffney underlining that military expenditure threatens human security. She particularly called for Britain to reject plans to renew its Trident nuclear weapons system. Given the numerous crises facing the planet – environmental, economic, health, diplomatic - it is necessary to strengthen and expand the global movement to shift military spending to human needs. She pointed out that similar actions took place in Oxford, Coventry, Leeds, Bristol and other cities and in 35 countries around the world